The endangered highway rest area

Some states, facing budget shortfalls, are closing down highway rest areas they’ve been maintaining for decades. The Wall Street Journal and Good Magazine cover what is apparently the passing of an icon of the Interstate highway system (if you really want to wax nostalgic, there’s Here’s Good Magazine:

Across the country, rest areas like this one have been losing a long-fought battle to commercial alternatives, super-sized stops with eight blends of caffeine, free wifi, burgers, and gas. Traditional rest areas cost money to staff and maintain, and aside from the odd vending machine, don’t generate any direct revenue; Virginia expects to save $9 million (much of which has gone to minority- and female-owned maintenance contractors) by not maintaining these buildings. It’s a public expense, originally conceived when the highway system was new and the opportunities to stop far between. That’s harder to justify now that there’s a McDonalds and a gas station at every interchange. The flailing economy today has only made matters worse.
Last year, Louisiana closed 24 of its 34 stops, and Vermont has already shuttered four this year. In April, Wisconsin stopped staffing its welcome centers. South Carolina, meanwhile, is closing its stops two days a week (“budget cuts” say the signs on locked doors) and North Carolina one day a week (“budget shortfalls”).

Day by day, travel keeps getting just a little bit meaner. Via MetaFilter.