ATA, VTA Praise Virginia Gov. McDonnell's Move to Reopen Safety Rest Areas

Jan 21, 2010, 16:12 ET from American Trucking Associations

ARLINGTON, Va., Jan. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Virginia Trucking Association (VTA) commend Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's leading of the Commonwealth Transportation Board to begin reopening 19 safety rest areas and welcome centers. The Board voted yesterday to reverse its 2009 decision to reduce the number of state safety rest areas and welcome centers from 42 to 23. All areas will reopen by April 15.

"Closing these rest areas last year potentially decreased highway safety for both the motoring public and truck drivers alike," ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said today. "As a former governor, I understand the difficult budget challenges that Virginia faces, but I was deeply concerned that safety rest areas were the wrong place to cut funds." Graves was elected to two terms as governor of Kansas.

Last year ATA and the VTA objected to the closings because there was already a severe shortage of truck parking. Responding to that concern, Virginia's previous administration somewhat offset the effect by lengthening the maximum parking time and adding 225 truck parking spaces at the 23 areas that were not closed. "The trucking industry is very pleased with Gov. McDonnell's additional decisions to maintain the additional spaces that were created and to extend the parking hours at all 42 areas," Graves said.

"We applaud Gov. McDonnell for taking these steps to help prevent driver fatigue and provide safe, secure parking spaces for truck drivers to comply with federal hours of service regulations," said Dale Bennett, VTA President and CEO.

In his announcement of the Board's decision, Gov. McDonnell noted that closing the safety rest areas "negatively impacted public safety," as well as tourism and economic development. "The darkened rest stops … left truckers and families without safe and secure areas at which they could get a break from the road, increasing the potential for accidents," he said. Gov. McDonnell credited Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton and the Transportation Board for reversing the closings.

Gov. McDonnell said he plans to personally welcome travelers to the first rest area reopening in February. The gates at closed areas will come down after workers reconnect power and water, stock traveler information centers, clean the facilities, install vending machines and restore the grounds. The Virginia Department of Transportation will use $3 million from its maintenance reserve fund to operate the facilities until June 30, and will identify long-term funding during revisions of budget this spring, a state spokesman said. The state also plans to improve the rest areas and welcome centers to make them more attractive and inviting. A map of the reopened rest areas is available at:

The American Trucking Associations is the largest national trade association for the trucking industry. Through a federation of other trucking groups, industry-related conferences, and its 50 affiliated state trucking associations, ATA represents more than 37,000 members covering every type of motor carrier in the United States.

SOURCE American Trucking Associations