UDOT is hosting the National Safety Rest Area Conference.
Planners, vendors, welcome center managers and maintenance providers from across the United States and Canada are in downtown Salt Lake City this week to hear presentations about planning, and maintaining facilities that support travel along the Interstate Highway system.
The primary purpose Safety Rest Areas is to provide a place to take a break for road users who travel long distances. However, some state departments of transportation, including Utah are playing a role in supporting the local economy as well.
Not just for safety any more
Conference Presenter David Dahlquist of RDG Planning and Design believes that SRAs that are memorable and call attention to local history and culture can invite road users to stay longer, visit local attractions and spend money at restaurants, lodging and other businesses.
SRAs are often the first chance state tourism and transportation agencies get to make a good first impression. As such, the facilities can be a valuable marketing opportunity to “make a connection with the traveling public.”
Dahlquist has been successful at bringing artists and engineers together to create very memorable SRAs in Iowa. By researching local history and culture, the facility designs pay homage and call attention to “the story of a place.”
Sometimes, according to Dahlquist, a SRA or other transportation design can be the best place to show visitors the unique historical and cultural assets of the area. A SRA in Cedar Rapids is a good case in point.
Who is Grant Woods?
Artist Grant Woods created the famous painting American Gothic, a depiction of rural life in America. One Iowa SRA has a Grant Woods themed design where visitors can learn about the man and his art – including his former home in Cedar Rapids.
By directing tourists to the home, Dahlquist believes the local community has realized economic benefits. “Economic development follows cultural tourism,” and the local businesses reap the rewards, he says.
Like Iowa, Utah has a rich cultural heritage and attractions that draw visitors. Over 13 million visitors per year arrive in Utah by car. Tomorrow, read how UDOT and the Utah Office of Tourism cooperate to provide safe places to stop, rest and learn about the state.