Guide for Development of Rest Areas on Major Arterials and Freeways
|Publication Date:||1 January 2001|
Foreword: Most states have established rest-area programs including planning, design, construction operation and rehabilitation components, designed to meet safety and service needs of highway users. Not all these programs are fully implemented. Some states are reevaluating them, and through comprehensive and strategic planning are refining their programs to match current state transportation goals, objectives, and investment strategies. Nationally, a broad range of motorist services within rest areas have been developed on both the Interstate and National Highway systems. This Guide provides an overview of components necessary to establish and maintain a successful statewide rest-area program and describes the range of services to be provided.
Transportation officials must recognize the importance of rest areas. The primary responsibility of the state to persons using highway systems is safety, and rest areas are an important instrument for its improvement. Accident reduction is their primary function. Greater highway safety is the major benefit in establishing rest areas, through safe off-road locations for motorists to rest, sleep, change drivers, and check vehicle loads and/or minor mechanical problems. Additional benefits for motorists are relief from extended travel period time, increased comfort and convenience, and locations for public agencies to communicate with travelers.
In his National Cooperative Highway Research Program report on evaluation of roadside rest areas, G. E King (1989) estimated that on rural interstate highways, absence of rest areas results in a 52 percent increase in shoulder related accidents. He also projected, based on motorist interviews at 13 rest areas in 5 states that "drivers who are fatigued and who enter a rest area represent an estimated 4.5 percent of the [total] traffic stream," and that "reduction in [driver fatigue] accident rates due to the rest area is 3.7 percent."
Well-designed, well-maintained rest areas also create positive images for out-of state motorists and enhance quality of life for the state's own residents. They provide opportunities for state transportation agencies and tourism groups to communicate with motorists in promoting state and local programs, and to provide road and weather information and such directional services as maps, routing suggestions, traffic incident warnings, and road construction schedules.
Transportation managers must consider priorities for rest-area development and rehabilitation as integral to the highway infrastructure. To encourage effective funding decisions, regional and local transportation partners must be educated as to the safety value, costs-benefits, and motorist services provided by rest areas. Failure to establish and maintain support, well-coordinated at all levels of government, inevitably results in ineffective programs.
Once a rest-area program is established, then management, research, and planning must become continuing activities (1) to document user needs, (2) to identify issues impacting rehabilitation and new development, (3) to monitor issues and changes affecting program decisions, and (4) to establish mechanisms communicating program purpose, service needs, and benefits to state and local transportation planners.
Management's commitment to a rest-area development program should include establishing and supporting statewide program objectives, priorities, and funding levels (including construction, operation, and maintenance) as part of each state's overall infrastructure development objectives.