Final weekend for 19 interstate rest areas

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

GOOCHLAND, VA (WWBT) - It's certainly not the highlight of an out of town trip, but for many families stopping at a rest area is a necessity. After this weekend, nearly half of Virginia's interstate rest areas will be closed, and you're going to have to make other plans.

Jessica Fristowe and her dog, Charlie, started the drive in Chesterfield, and made it to Goochland before it was time to take a break.

"Once an hour at least. If we take him outside he'll go right away which is a good thing, we try to prevent the accidents as much as possible," Fristowe said of her dog.

It's an option they won't have for much longer, because this is the final weekend for nearly 20 interstate rest areas across Virginia. As of Tuesday, they'll be closed, saving taxpayers about $9 million, while cutting the number of available rest areas, nearly in half.

"Kinda shocked, because you know, kinda area to get out stretch a little bit. And it's like, we don't have that option anymore," Fristowe said.

That means pets, small children, and anyone else in the car will have to make other arrangements. And that's not always easy - especially when the concerns are medical.

Don Barlow is traveling to New York State with his mother.

"She has these colostomy bags that she has to empty and you just don't know what's gonna happen, it's a lot easier to do it in a public rest area than try to get in a gas station," he said.

There is a push on Capitol Hill to let private business run the rest stops. It's already happened in other states. But there's no telling how long it would take to do the same in Virginia. So travelers are beginning to consider life on the road - without the usual breaks.

"These are very, very valuable. You have the special parking for handicapped; it's all set up for people. I think the whole population in the U.S. really depends on public bathrooms," Barlow said.

As of July 21, VDOT says rest areas will be located no more than about 120 miles, or two hours, apart.

The rest areas slated to close July 21 include:

  • I-81 North Rural Retreat
  • I-81 South Smyth
  • I-81 North Radford
  • I-81 South Troutville
  • I-81 North Mt. Sidney
  • I-81 South Mt. Sidney
  • I-81 South New Market
  • I-95 North Ladysmith
  • I-95 South Ladysmith
  • I-95 North Dale City (cars)
  • I-95 South Dale City (cars)
  • I-66 East Manassas
  • I-64 East Goochland
  • I-64 West Goochland
  • I-85 North Dinwiddie
  • I-85 South Dinwiddie
  • I-85 North Alberta
  • I-85 South Alberta

VDOT will operate the I-66 West Manassas Welcome Center through the summer travel season, since it was the only welcome center impacted by these closures.

VDOT will close the I-66 Welcome Center on Sept. 16, following the busy summer travel season.

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