Idaho rest areas provide a number of services to the traveling public, from relief for truckers to tourist information. To many out-of-state visitors, rest areas demonstrate the states level of commitment for providing a clean, pleasant experience on our highways and interstates.
In the past, maintaining those facilities and constructing new rest areas had been a sporadic process. Rest area rehabilitation and construction projects often would get bumped for highway construction projects that were given a higher priority.
Those days are a memory now, replaced by a consistent, long-range commitment to rest area funding.
At the July 2004 board meeting in Twin Falls, the transportation board recognized the service rest areas provide to the traveling public and the influence they have on travelers impressions of the state. They agreed to allocate approximately $10 million annually for the statewide rest area program.
In the past, we had rest area projects that were programmed but delayed several times because the districts would have more important projects push them back, said Cathy Ford, roadside program administrator responsible for vegetation and management of rest areas.
With the boards involvement and support, we hope to move ahead with rest area projects and bring them up to standards.
Many of Idahos rest areas were built in the 1960s and 70s and have yet to receive any major improvements or remodels.
Our focus is on trying to bring all of our existing rest areas up to standard, meeting ADA (American with Disabilities Act) requirements, building codes and level of usage, said Ford.
Another service ITD hopes to provide through rest area rehabilitation and construction projects is relief for weary truckers. New regulations change the number of hours that truck drivers can operate without taking a break.
A lack of truck and RV parking at some Idaho rest areas forced many truckers to use truck stops and membership rest areas, both of which cost money.
From past studies and talking with truck drivers, they would prefer taking breaks at rest areas because they dont necessarily need all the amenities truck stops provide, said Ford.
Were slowly but surely trying to increase the parking at ports of entry and rest areas to give truck drivers another option, so they dont have to pay extra dollars to park.
Increased parking, along with improving the aesthetics by complementing the surrounding geography and native vegetation, are all enhancements that would benefit the existing rest areas across the state.
ITD also identified sites for 10 new rest areas that will be constructed at the rate of approximately one every two years:
With many of these future projects, ITD hopes to share costs by embarking in public/private partnerships with local businesses, the trucking industry or other state and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management.
At Idahos three gateway rest areas, Memoranda of Understanding already have been struck with the Idaho Department of Commerce and Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation to jointly finance the staffing of visitors centers within the rest areas.
The three gateway rest areas are Snake River View, on
I-84 near the Oregon border; Huetter, on I-90 outside of Coeur dAlene;
and Cherry Creek, on I-15 north of the Idaho-Utah border.