- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

The Virginia Department of Transportation is considering shuttering more than two dozen rest stops in the state - including all but one along Interstate 95 between the District and Richmond - as a cost-cutting move.

Virginia could close up 25 rest areas, stopping electricity and water service and erecting barriers at the off ramps to save $12 million as state officials continue to look for ways to plug a $2.6 billion revenue shortfall. The total annual cost of Virginia’s 41 rest stops is $21 million.

“Every little bit counts,” said Jeffrey Caldwell, a spokesman for VDOT.

Four rest stops in Manassas and two in Dale City are being considered for closure.

Transportation officials chose the rest stops facing closure by looking at age, condition, local contributions and the amount of traffic received.

“You have to remember when the interstate system was built most of the rest areas were out in rural areas, where there were no other options to use restrooms or to get a snack,” Mr. Caldwell said.

“We looked at the surrounding areas to see what other amenities are available so motorists won’t be without options.”

The state conducted the first of 11 public meetings on the service reductions in Roanoke on Tuesday night, during which transportation officials described the potential changes and took public comments.

Fairfax City Hall will host the final public meeting on April 1.

The rest area closures are part of a set of service reductions that include changing interstate maintenance contracts and adjusting the standard for cutting grass along the highway.

Some travel experts are concerned that rest stop closings could pose a danger to travelers who don’t know the region.

“That means now you have to travel a complete stretch of road from [the District] to Richmond before you hit a rest stop,” said John Townsend, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

“We tell people to stop every two hours so you won’t be victimized by distracted driving.”

The final decision on which rest stops will close will come when the transportation budget is adopted June 18.

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