September 22nd, 2012
PUBLIC-PRIVATE REST AREASStrengthen the Economy, by Catherine Higgins.
UDOT was the first state department of transportation to partner with private service stations to provide Safety Rest Areas on interstates.
A business in Springville was the first public-private Safety Rest Area; it replaced an old SRA that needed to be torn down. Five more partnerships have followed, and overall, the approach has worked well for UDOT, businesses, taxpayers and road users.
The partnership requires some commitment on the part of participating businesses, according to UDOT Permits Engineer Rhett Arnell who oversees five of the rest areas. Businesses must be easy to access from the freeway, agree to stay open around the clock, provide water and access to clean restrooms without requiring a purchase, and have adequate parking for cars and tractor-trailers. Arnell spoke at the National Safety Rest Area Conference in Salt Lake City this week.
UDOT provides signage that directs drivers to the stops. The benefit for businesses is more customers, which helps offset higher maintenance costs. The Utah Department of Tourism provides free information about local and regional attractions.
The partnerships have saved thousands of dollars of funding each year, according to Arnell. Cleaning services costs UDOT over $80 thousand per rest area per year. And the partnerships have saved taxpayers from funding new buildings.
Businesses that participate seem to like the arrangement. Arnell said that some have opted out of the program and then decided to participate again.
A UDOT report issued in 2007 found that the public-private partnerships work well to provide for the basic needs of road users. The report suggests that the program be expanded to more locations and lists some additional features, such as picnic and play areas, that could be added in the future.
About Safety Rest Areas:
The first interstate rest areas came into being in 1938 as a part of the Federal Highway Aid Act. The Interstate Highway Act of 1956, establishment of the Highway Trust Fund in 1956, and the Highway Beautification Act of 1965 focused more attention on rest area construction nationwide. Utah’s Rest Area System was developed at the same time Utah’s highway system was built.
UDOT’s newest Welcome Center and rest area was built in 2010. Tie Fork is located on US- 6 at milepost 202. The building and surrounding area is a tribute to Utah’s railroad past and the former town of Tucker.