June 15, 2010 12:30 PM, EDT

Groups Concerned About Ariz.’s Rest Area Commercialization

A coalition of truck stops, restaurant franchises and other businesses have expressed opposition to Arizona’s proposal to stem budgetary shortfalls by commercializing the state’s interstate rest areas.

Arizona, facing increasingly restricted transportation funds, has already closed roughly 70% of the highway rest areas under its operation and is petitioning the federal government to allow the state to reopen them through the use of public-private partnerships.

In a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer (R) dated June 10, NATSO said the move would create a “de facto monopoly” which would threaten the nearly 1,200 Arizona businesses located within a quarter mile of an interstate highway that rely on through traffic for their existence.

NATSO, which represents truck stops and was the letter’s prime signatory, was joined by nearly 20 others, including several fast food chains, gasoline and petroleum marketers.

ADOT spokesman Doug Nintzel said seeking rest area reform was among the department’s top priorities, but that other expenses like roadway repair and crash response take precedence.

“At this point we’re speaking out and urging our state coalitions to address the problem, but it’s going to take a lot of work because it will require congressional approval,” Nintzel said.

“We are going to continue to see what we can do to reopen the rest areas on a short-term basis, but we are in it for the long haul,” he added.