Travelers beware: VDOT closes 18 rest areas

Published 7:54 am Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Motorists planning on traveling on Virginia interstates will want to make sure that they’re well rested, well fed and have used the bathroom.

The Virginia Department of Transportation closed 18 highway rest areas Monday night in an effort to cut costs because of the agency’s $2.6 billion revenue shortfall.

Interstate 95 and I-85 lost four rest areas each. I-81, which crosses the western part of the state, lost seven rest areas; I-64 lost two rest areas; and I-66, which traverses Northern Virginia, lost one.

The last rest area to close, the I-66 West Manassas Welcome Center, will continue to operate for the rest of the summer travel season before closing on Sept. 16.

The closures will bring the number of VDOT-maintained rest areas to 23 from 42.

VDOT made changes to rest area truck parking restrictions on Tuesday to allow truck drivers to get their mandated 10 hours of rest. Officials said that the changes added 225 legal truck parking spaces, which offset the number of truck parking spaces that were lost.

It will take several weeks to close the buildings and secure them for long-term closure. As each rest area is fully decommissioned, equipment, supplies and fixtures that can be reused in the remaining facilities will be removed. Crews will install large metal gates across entrance and exit ramps at the shuttered facilities.

Both candidates for Governor, Republican Bob McDonnell and Democrat Creigh Deeds, have publicly acknowledged their desire to reopen the shuttered rest areas.

“Shutting down Virginia’s rest stops will negatively impact motorists, impair public safety, weaken our tourism industry, and slap a ‘Closed’ sign on the Commonwealth,” McDonnell said in a press release. “That’s not what Virginia needs right now.”