All but two of the state's 65 fully-equipped rest stops closed by noon on Wednesday, June 29, in preparation for the possible shutdown.
Minnesota Department of Transportation Central Minnesota Facilities supervisor Greg Wensman said the rest stops need to be closed ahead of time to coordinate efforts needed to shut down each stop. Many will be barricaded, blocking access, and any portable toilet stations will be removed.
Wensman said the department wanted to avoid the vandalism experienced during the brief shutdown in 2005 when the stops remained open without supervision. Human excrement and large amounts of garbage were left on the site grounds, in addition to minor damage to buildings.
MnDOT Central Minnesota spokesman Judy Jacobs said drivers who need to stop during the shutdown should go to the nearest town, where it is safe, and find a restroom.
Rob Williams, MnDOT's rest area program manager, said the department also was concerned about truck drivers resting on ramps of interchanges with fewer pit stops to choose from.
Non-interstate rest areas are scheduled to close first, followed by interstate stops. Some rest areas closed as early as Monday.
Ten tourism offices and one welcome center are scheduled to close, including the Central Minnesota Travel Information Center along U.S. Highway 10 south of St. Cloud, which fully closed Wednesday. Barricades were up Wednesday morning.
Due to barricade logistics, the more than 190 wayside rests and rest areas without toilet facilities are likely to remain open.
The three fully equipped stops that will not close include the Brainerd and Park Rapids welcome centers and Floodwood rest area, which are partnered with city functions.