Rest Area Commercialization

When Congress created the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s, community leaders feared that local businesses, jobs and tax bases would shrink as truck drivers and motorists bypassed their cities and towns. As a result, Congress prohibited states from offering commercial services, such as food and fuel, at commercial rest areas on the interstate right-of-way built after Jan. 1, 1960. Since then, businesses such as restaurants, fuel stations and truckstops have clustered near the interstates at the interchanges along the IHS to provide services to interstate travelers.

Commercial rest areas jeopardize private businesses that for the last 50 years have operated under the current law and established locations at the highway exits.

Due to their advantageous locations, state-owned commercial rest areas establish virtual monopolies on the sale of services to highway travelers. 

Allowing states to set up shop along the interstates threatens more than 97,000 businesses nationwide and jeopardizes 2.2 million jobs. 

In the 2012 transportation bill, a Senate amendment seeking to overturn the prohibition on commercial rest areas was overwhelmingly defeated 86-12.

As Congress works on the next transportation bill,  NATSO will continue to educate members of Congress about the negative effects of commercial rest areas, and we are hopeful that the Senate vote will put the idea of commercializing rest areas to rest.

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