Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois introduced a new bill in the U.S. Senate this week that would permit states to sell food and fuel at the interstate highway rest areas.  A coalition of private truck stops, fast food restaurants and other businesses now licensed at exits don't want the competition. Today The Partnership to Save Highway Communities said that Senator Kirk’s legislation would pull the rug out from under the nation’s interstate-based fast food franchisees, convenience stores, gas stations and truck stops at a time when the businesses are just starting to see signs of recovery from the recession. 

“This legislation does nothing more than grant state governments a monopoly directly on the interstate shoulder or median.  The right-of-way location of the commercial rest areas gives the state a major advantage over the businesses at the exit,” said Lisa Mullings, President and CEO of NATSO, a member of the coalition representing truck stops.  “On interstates where there are commercial rest areas, there are 50 percent fewer businesses at the exits. By changing this law, the government isn’t creating any new demand from travelers for hamburgers or gasoline.  They are simply transferring sales from exits to state rest areas.”

The organization also points out that small towns and counties are benefactors of more than $600 million a year in taxes to help fund local schools and governments. The competition would mean some of that money would go to state governments.

The groups contend that Congress effectively privatized interstate services in the late 50s, by passing legislation that prohibited commercial development of rest areas after 1960. The law successfully encouraged investment at the exits, with some 97,000 small businesses operating today within a quarter-mile of the Interstate Highway System. More from the coalition at

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