New Bill Could Open Rest Stops to Commercial Development

Bipartisan legislation offers potential infrastructure revenue

WASHINGTON -- New legislation could provide opportunities for retailers to expand services and even build convenience stores along major highways across the United States.

Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) have introduced legislation giving states the option to commercialize state-owned rest areas on interstate highways. The legislation would give states discretion on how to use this new revenue to fund infrastructure projects and highway maintenance.

The bill would roll back the federal law that prohibits states from commercializing rest areas on interstates developed after 1956. The law has stayed active even though rest areas all over the country close each year due to rising costs and tighter state budgets. Permitting commercial activity at rest areas, specifically foodservice and convenience stores, would allow states to convert deteriorating stops into revenue generators. States would then have the ability to reinvest this revenue to pay for infrastructure needs.

“Across America, state governments are grappling with how to fund critical infrastructure needs,” said Banks. “Giving states the option to commercialize rest areas would create a new source of revenue for long term infrastructure needs and provide drivers with a smoother travel experience. This bipartisan bill is a common sense solution that would give states more control and turn fiscal liabilities into potential assets.”

“This legislation will finally provide state governments with the option to enter into public-private partnerships to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of highway rest stops while providing improved amenities to the public,” said Courtney. “The 1956 law that currently blocks the creation of full-service rest stops creates a difficult financial situation for already cash-strapped states. Our bill will allow for public-private partnerships that will cover the cost of providing public restrooms while giving travelers options for food services and convenience shops. I look forward to working with Rep. Banks to build bipartisan support for his common sense alternative.”

The bill, H.R. 1990, was referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. A hearing is yet to be scheduled.

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