[vendtalk] FW: Closing of Rest Stops Stirs Anger in Arizona

Kevan Worley kevanworley at blindmerchants.org
Fri Mar 5 19:48:10 UTC 2010




From: Mike Vandervoort [mailto:vandervoort at sbcglobal.net] 
Sent: Friday, March 05, 2010 8:32 AM
To: 'Kevan Worley'; 'Catriona Macdonald'; 'Sean Whalen';
nickycolorado at netscape.net; Hooks, Michael; 'clayton hell'
Cc: Dominguez, Josh; 'Mary Kindrick'; Mark Harris; Kevin Scott
Subject: Closing of Rest Stops Stirs Anger in Arizona


In case you missed the New York Times article about the closure of most of
Arizona's rest stops and thoughts about privatizing them, I have copied the
article below.



Mike Vandervoort

Vandervoort's Vending

Abilene, TX




March 4, 2010

Closing of Rest Stops Stirs Anger in Arizona


PHOENIX - The people of Arizona kept their upper lips stiff when officials
mortgaged off the state's executive office tower and a "Daily Show" crew
rolled into town to chronicle the transaction in mocking tones. They
remained calm as lawmakers pondered privatizing death row. 

But then the state took away their toilets, and residents began to revolt. 

"Why don't they charge a quarter or something?'" said Connie Lucas, who
lives in Pine, Ariz., about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from here. "There
was one rest stop between here and Phoenix, and we really needed it." 

Arizona has the largest budget gap in the country when measured as a
percentage of its overall budget, and the state Department of Transportation
was $100 million in the red last fall when it decided to close 13 of the
state's 18 highway rest stops. 

But the move has unleashed a torrent of telephone calls and e-mail messages
to state lawmakers, newspapers and the Department of Transportation
deploring the lost toilets - one of the scores of small indignities among
larger hardships that residents of embattled states face as governments
scramble to shore up their finances. 

"People in this state are mad about this," said State Representative Daniel
Patterson, a Democrat from Tucson who has sponsored a bill that would allow
other entities to reopen and maintain the rest stops. "This bill may have
the broadest support among members of any bill this year." 

Some residents see something sinister in the closings. Betty L. Roberts, who
lives in Sun City, west of Phoenix, said the topic was a hot one among her

"I honestly think they are setting us up because they want to do a tax
increase," Ms. Roberts said. "I think by shutting down things people want,
they will give us one." 

Arizona is not alone in singling out toilets. Colorado, Georgia, Vermont and
Virginia are among states that have also closed rest stops, though
Virginia's new governor, Robert F. McDonnell
nell/index.html?inline=nyt-per> , has vowed to reopen 19 stops that closed
last year. 

"It's a safety problem, not only for us but car drivers," said Clayton
Boyce, the spokesman for the American Trucking Association
<http://www.truckline.com/Pages/Home.aspx> , which has fought rest stop
closings in Virginia and elsewhere. "We think it is a pretty bad idea." 

The Arizona
Transportation Department has suffered an ever-ugly combination of large
cuts and unforeseen costs. More than $500 million of the transportation
budget was recently diverted to the state's general fund - a common move
among struggling states - and the department has closed 12 field offices,
deferred $370 million in highway construction projects and cut 10 percent of
its staff. 

Further, two winter storms recently battered the north of the state, at a
cost of roughly $4 million to the department. The roughly $300,000 a year it
cost to operate each rest stop was something the department decided it could
no longer manage. 

"People think, 'You just go in and change the toilet paper, don't you?' "
said Kevin Biesty, the government relations director for the Transportation
Department. "The answer is, no, we have to maintain the water quality, we
have do maintenance to the buildings and so on. Some of those places in the
middle of nowhere are like their own little cities." 

Mr. Patterson's bill, which is supported by a majority of legislators,
Republicans and Democrats, would allow local governments, American Indian
tribes and private groups to pay to keep the rest stops open. 

The problem is that most localities in the state are broke, too. Further,
federal law prohibits states (including Arizona) with Interstates built
after 1956 from privatizing or commercializing their rest areas. "This bill
doesn't really give us any new tools," Mr. Biesty said. 

Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, wrote
to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood
ex.html?inline=nyt-per>  last month asking that the restriction be rescinded
to allow the state more flexibility. 

One of the newly closed rest stops is on U.S. 60 near Wickenburg, a little
town about 50 miles northwest of here. The stop had served as a bit of a
recreation area, too, with picnic tables and educational information about
the nearby Hassayampa River, and the life of bats. 

"That place was well used," Bonnie Chapman, a waitress at the Golden Nugget,
one of the few restaurants on Wickenburg's main drag, said of the rest stop.
"Locals even used it for picnics." 

The Golden Nugget, not coincidentally, is now a place that sees a few more
visitors needing something other than coffee each day. 

"It's a long way to Phoenix from here," Ms. Chapman said. 

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