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States should partner with Interstate 5 businesses, not compete

Posted on : 19-03-2009 | By : Truckdrivernews | In : Thoughts from a trucker, Truck Stops, truck driver Industry


THREE West Coast governors have made a proposal, which is a violation of a long-standing federal law, that seeks to commercialize the states’ rest areas along Interstate 5 and provide not only alternative fuels, but food and other services.

If the states have their way, private businesses at the exit interchanges would be forced to compete with the subsidized, government-run operations along the right-of-way. These businesses, most of which are independently owned, small businesses, are already facing significant challenges with the stalled economy, and this proposal places the thousands of jobs provided by these businesses at risk.

The transportation departments of Washington, Oregon and California knowingly submitted an application to the Federal Highway Administration that violates a federal statute that bans commercial activity at state-operated rest areas located along interstate highways. The ban, which has been in place since 1960, was implemented to foster economic development along the interstate highway system. This policy has been wildly successful, with more than 60,000 interstate-based businesses nationwide providing a host of services in a highly competitive environment.

Should this scheme go forward, the newly commercialized rest areas along I-5 with direct access from the highway would have a significant competitive advantage over existing businesses — which invested millions of dollars in their property relying on this long-standing ban restricting state governments from competing against them.

Unfortunately, these businesses have had no public opportunity to weigh in on this proposal, which was quietly submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation last fall under a “Special Experimental Project” application. And while the alternative-fuels portion of the plan has been highly touted, the proposal doesn’t stop there. Their application included the request to offer “food and other services.” This program places at risk more than 3,500 businesses located on Interstate 5 in these three states, including some 1,600 restaurants and more than 5Ȓ gas stations, truck stops and convenience stores.

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