Republican legislators in Washington state have proposed commercialization of rest areas to avoid closures.
The state Department of Transportation has proposed temporarily closing half of Washington's 41 rest stops to save $1.5 million in maintenance costs over the next 18 months.
The department was hit hard by the passage of Initiative 695, which reduced car tabs to $30 a year per vehicle.
That has some suggesting private companies might pay for the right to operate rest areas, which would remain free of charge to motorists and truckers.
The move would require approval by the federal government, which helped pay for the rest stops.
Sens. Stephen Johnson, R-Kent, and Don Benton, R-Vancouver, co-sponsored a bill authorizing the private takeover, but the bill died in committee. Rep. Roger Bush, R-Spanaway, sponsored similar legislation in the House.
Benton said closing rest stops is simply punishing voters for giving themselves a tax break, and the state needs to seek other alternatives.
Senate Transportation Vice Chairwoman Georgia Gardner, D-Blaine, said the issue will come up when budget discussions begin in a few weeks.
Parents Against Tired Truckers wrote to the Washington House Transportation Committee expressing its concerns about closing rest areas. "In 1996 a rest area study revealed a shortage of 570 truck parking spaces in Washington," wrote Daphne Izer. "Closing existing rest areas creates an even greater shortage. Fatigue is the single most serious problem in the trucking industry today. The lack of truck parking spaces nationally only serves to compound the
problem. Closing rest areas in Washington will further exacerbate this problem. Where is the rationale and common sense? Where is the concern for public safety?"