When you’ve ever taken an extended street journey on a federal interstate, you may need had cause to cease at one of many nation’s practically three,000 relaxation areas. Constructed beginning within the 1950s as a part of the Interstate Freeway System, these stops have been meant to offer a protected, handy spot for vacationers to go to the toilet, eat a picnic lunch, or take a break from the weariness of the street.
They’re additionally, with only a few exceptions, remarkably uninteresting. Your typical relaxation cease has some loos, a soda machine, park benches and possibly a number of journey brochures in a dusty show. Apart from that, there simply is not quite a bit happening. In some circumstances, the deserted really feel of relaxation stops has made them a locus for crime, and it typically makes them much less interesting than they could possibly be.
The desolate nature of interstate freeway relaxation areas is not any accident. In actual fact, federal legislation prohibits any business exercise at these stops, with only some slender exceptions like the ever present merchandising machines. Initially imposed to stop competitors for the few pre-existing personal relaxation stops, the ban on business exercise has survived gone its helpful life.
The feds implement the foundations strictly. When New York State included “I Love New York” messages on signage alongside the Lengthy Island Expressway, they quickly discovered themselves slapped down by the federal authorities over a associated algorithm that solely enable freeway indicators to supply directional and navigational info to drivers. Extra not too long ago, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has been embroiled in a tussle with Federal Freeway Administration over the “Style NY” program, which permits farmers markets and different native retailers to arrange store at New York State Thruway relaxation stops, in violation of the federal legislation in parts of the thruway that additionally function Interstate 87 and Interstate 90.
Not all federal freeway relaxation stops are boring. The Iowa 80 truck cease, situated alongside Interstate 80 off exit 284, payments itself because the world’s largest truck cease. It options eating places, a comfort retailer and repair station, an automotive showroom, 24-hour showers, a enterprise heart, barbershop, movie show and even a dentist workplace. The distinction: Iowa 80 is not topic to the federal ban.
There is a easy solution to convey relaxation areas again to life. It entails making widespread trigger with an rising know-how that, at first blush, does not appear linked with freeway relaxation areas: the electrical automotive.
The previous few years have seen a major improve in the usage of electrical autos. Gross sales of electrical autos rose 37 p.c final yr, with cumulative gross sales of 159,132. Elevated demand for electrical autos has been pushed by every part from falling prices to rising client concern about local weather change.
Regardless of these positive aspects, widespread use of electrical autos is held again by a scarcity of accompanying infrastructure. As with gasoline-powered autos, electrical autos can solely drive so lengthy earlier than their battery drains down and must be recharged. Charging stations, nonetheless, stay few and much between. The comparatively small variety of electrical autos bought to this point merely hasn’t but produced the mandatory demand.
Think about in the event you needed to hunt to discover a fuel station slightly than discovering them on most road corners. With out the safety of understanding you possibly can refill your tank at any time when it’s good to, proudly owning a automotive that runs on gasoline could be quite a bit much less useful. The same drawback faces the proprietor of an electrical automobile right now, as charging stations for electrical automobiles stay sparse.
There is a common solution to these two problems. Whatever the original merits of protecting pre-existing facilities from competition, after nearly 70 years of changing population patterns, any legitimacy of the federal policy is long gone. Congress should allow commercial activity at rest stops that offer electric-vehicle charging stations. Opening up rest stops to ordinary commercial activity would attract customers for electric vehicle charging and vice versa. It might even make family road trips a little more fun.
Josiah Neeley (@jneeley78) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a senior fellow, energy policy director, and Southwest region director for the R Street Institute.
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Josiah Neeley, contributor