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Question of the day

Monday, Oct 30, 2017

* AP

Illinois has received nearly 4,500 responses to its public survey asking about highway rest areas in less than two weeks.

The Illinois Department of Transportation launched the public survey to get feedback because the agency is considering how to rehab or possibly close some of those rest areas, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“Many of our rest areas have reached a point where it’s time to evaluate their future,” Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn said. […]

Illinois Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kelsea Gurski said many of the state’s 30 public rest areas and 11 welcome centers are 30 to 40 years old. […]

“As they reach the end of their useful life, we want to know how best to meet the needs of the traveling public — what features are valued by the public,” Gurski said.

* Mark Brown says he smells a “rat”

An educated guess, given the preferences of our current governor, is that it also could involve privatizing them in some way to open them up to commercial businesses to reduce the cost to the state.

Try as I might, I couldn’t get IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell to actually verbalize any of those possibilities.

Instead, he stressed that no decisions have been made.

“At this point, nothing’s being ruled out,” Tridgell said.

Fair enough.

Then maybe there’s still time to register my opinion that Illinois could use more rest areas, not fewer, especially one on the edge of the metropolitan area along I-55 before motorists get caught in Chicago traffic.

Lots of rest areas are maintained by groups that employ developmentally disabled adults.

* The Question: Should Illinois’ rest areas be privatized? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.

online surveys

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Ron Burgundy - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:07 pm:

    I voted yes, provided federal law can be changed to permit it on interstates rather than just toll roads. Privatization would provide additional services and remove much of the burden of maintenance from the state. The rest areas right now are deplorable and can’t stay the way they are. Adding services like Tollway Oases have would be a plus, and especially good for security purposes if they were staffed 24/7. Just so long as the bathrooms remain accessible without need to purchase anything. Of course, being Illinois, a sharp eye would have to be kept on the procurement process.

  2. - Ron Burgundy - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:09 pm:

    –Ericka Harold has to be praying for Quinn to be her opponent.–

    I’m not sure JB or whoever the leader of the ticket ends up being would relish those joint photo ops either.

  3. - Moe Berg - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:12 pm:

    Would the privatization of the rest areas, which is no doubt Rauner’s intent, duh, be required to follow the state procurement code, or would it follow the boondoggle approach of awarding billions to Medicaid managed care companies without transparency or the oversight requirements of buying crucial items like toilet paper and road salt?

    Would there be the upside of profit sharing for taxpayers, or just the socialization of the private companies’ losses when they botch it up?

  4. - Steve Rogers - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:13 pm:

    No, See Northstar-Illinois Lottery

  5. - A guy - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:15 pm:

    Sometimes you just have to pee. Without any pressure. Or your dog does.
    That isn’t to say that some of these can’t get developed. But I agree, a few more of these rest areas would be helpful. As the areas have grown and expanded, some could benefit from better locations.

  6. - Newsclown - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:17 pm:

    I don’t mind if they get privatized, as long as they don’t get shut down. They’re a needed place to pull over and nap on long drives, or to get out and stretch. What SHOULD happen is, they get charging stations for electrics, and a free wifi connection.

  7. - Winnin’ - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:18 pm:

    Voted No. These facilities would still be taxpayer subsidized.

  8. - phocion - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:20 pm:

    Voted yes. Not sure if USDOT would allow it, though. Caveat is that the vendor needs to provide much higher quality stops, and more of them (see Mark Brown’s suggestion of getting one closer to Chicago on I-55). And no, any operating losses will be on the vendor, and not on the state. If this means more money going into actually improving roads and bridges, bring it.

  9. - Anon221 - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:21 pm:

    Voted No.

    “As they reach the end of their useful life, we want to know how best to meet the needs of the traveling public — what features are valued by the public,” Gurski said.

    This raised a “rodent flag” for me- how many will they just close??? Remember during the budget impasse(s) when the rest areas were closed and the one near Hamel was vandalized -
    We’ve got a Bicentennial coming up for goodness sakes. The rest areas and welcome centers (many of which are closed, too) could be the “hosts with the mosts” to promote that event. Privatizing these areas will only make the businesses nearby vivid because of the potential for competition. I travel the state extensively, and how stopped in many of the rest areas and welcome centers in the state. I’ve even worked with the staffs there on projects. Some of these are mini museums, Like the Funks Grove rest area. Let’s keep them “in the family” and not outsource them or shut them down.

  10. - muon - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:22 pm:

    Earlier this year I was traveling through Virginia and noticed rest areas sponsored by Geico. Apparently Virginia sold the naming rights rather than privatizing the operations. Perhaps that’s an alternative that could be considered here as well.

  11. - Anon221 - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:22 pm:

    livid, not vivid- finger and mind problem:)

  12. - Anonymous - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:22 pm:

    Absent a change in federal law, privatization ain’t gonna happen. I-55 is a federal aid highway. The means rest stops can only sell vending machine food. No restaurants, no gas stations, no convenience stores.

    There are also stringent federal preference rules that say blind people must be given preference to operate the vending machine concession.

  13. - Anonymous - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:25 pm:

    Didnt vote- but some should be closed.

    Rest areas should only be put in places where it’s not economically viable for a trucker stop.

    Some of these rest areas are where there’s a love’s or pilot’s a few miles away. Waste of taxpayer funds.

  14. - Huh? - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:33 pm:

    The rest areas were built long before the truck stop chains built their facilities. I voted no. Federal funds were used to build them. Keep them open and free.

  15. - We'll See - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:33 pm:

    Voted no. Most villages in proximity to the rest areas need the revenue generated by their local gas stations and fast food joints.

  16. - Anonymous - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:33 pm:

    Yes. They’ve outlived they’re usefullness for the most part. I travel a lot on interstates, and I can’t tell you the last time I stopped at one. Like most people, I hold it until the next gas station/truck stop a few miles down the road.

  17. - Sox Fan - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:36 pm:

    Voted no. Saw this article a few months ago on this very matter. Privatizing rest stops would directly harm small businesses that rely on rest stops by creating new competition.

  18. - Anon - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:40 pm:

    I voted no because I find the access and un-commercialized component of rest stops to be their strongest attribute. Access to them via their own on-off ramp makes total time loss due to stopping minutes less than stopping at a commercial location that is set back from the highway. Additionally, the peaceful, often tree-covered greenspaces of these stops makes them much more suitable for taking breaks and short naps, decreasing the overall level of danger on the road.

  19. - Finally Out - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:44 pm:

    No. I could easily see parking meters in each spot, coin operated rest rooms, etc.

    Ask Chicago citizens how privatization is working with their parking meters.

    Just had to take a trip south and we couldn’t find a rest area that was open. Seems the closings have already started.

  20. - Annonin' - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:51 pm:

    We voted “yes”. It reminded us of Rezko putting all of his pals into the tollway oasis. We can give the guys/gals who dreamed up the Barney’s warehouse scandal so more rope. The Heaton team will be even busier.

  21. - a drop in - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 12:58 pm:

    Be nice to get food at those rest areas. Shops can pay for 24/7 security and maintenance.

  22. - Graduated College Student - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 1:00 pm:

    Voted No. If I want to stop at a privatized rest area, I’ll stop at a gas station.

  23. - Give Me A Break - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 1:05 pm:

    At this point not sure I care anymore as long as the bad ones get fixed.

    Just visit the rest areas north of Springfield, not much more than “porta poddies” and vending machines behind chained gates. Those rest areas look like the former USSR won the bid to build and maintain them. And these are located just miles from the Lincoln sites where Springfield and Illinois are trying to push drivers to visit.

    Maybe Cory Jobe could push IDOT to build new rest areas that promote tourism and encourage people to get off the highway and visit nearby towns. They do it other rest areas, now it needs to be done ASAP to the Sherman area ones.

  24. - JS Mill - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 1:07 pm:

    Voted No.

    Illinois has a need for more, not less rest areas. If you spend much time traveling by interstate it becomes obvious. If I want businesses then I hit a gas station but rest areas offer better/quicker on/off opportunities.

  25. - Almost the Weekend - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 1:08 pm:

    Rauner’s idea of governing has a universal theme, if he has never benefitted from it, it’s useless and the private sector can improve it. State universities, went to Dartmouth, there’s no use. Travels first class, never stopped at a rest area. I’d be interested what trucking companies take on these rest areas are in the state.

    Put video poker machines at the rest areas, they are everywhere else, will pay for themselves and improvements to facilities.

  26. - vendyboy - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 1:10 pm:

    No! The Federal Highway, Rest Area system has long been an economic generator for blind and severely disabled persons. Indeed changes are needed at the rest areas but commercialization will only put them and other small mom and pops out of business . The IDOT has made some very foolish choices in the last several years regarding construction projects and years of late payments to utilities which shut these facilities down. Sadly there has been horrible oversight from IDOT and capital development shuttering many of these including the abomination at Hamel last year. Many of these long term rest area closures were and are avoidable. The public deserves better that is for sure commercialization will be socialism on the way up and tax payer bail outs of corporations to recover the ROI. By the way part of the commercialization theory is that the developer will then be able to take 40 miles and toll the roads, very feudal nonsense, very 12th-century and very Trumpian.

  27. - Jerry - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 1:13 pm:

    Broadly speaking, I’m anti-privatization, but I voted yes for this. Adding some amenities would help the rest stops and reduce the costs of operations.

    The devil is in the details, but provided the right protections and requirements are in place, seems like a good plan to me.

  28. - Plutocrat03 - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 1:18 pm:

    As areas become populated, the need for a government sponored rest area recedes. Inertia keeps government from closing the unneeded rest areas.

    Establish a standard that determines the criteria for opening a rest area. One part of the standard should be whether there are services available to the public in the immediate area.

    Revisit the needs every few years and close the rest areas no longer needed. In the meantime, naming/ advertising rights sounds like a possibility to defeat the maintenance expenses.

  29. - Dome Gnome - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 1:26 pm:

    I voted no. Profit motives generate better profits than they do services.

  30. - JoanP - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 1:32 pm:

    “Lots of rest areas are maintained by groups that employ developmentally disabled adults.”

    I did not know that. All the more reason not to privatize them.

    I agree with others that we need more, not fewer, rest areas. (Brown is exactly right about needing one on the long stretch of 55 approaching the city.)

    They need to be improved, not closed.

  31. - Amalia - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 1:33 pm:

    at least some aspect should be privatized to get things in order. why not attract private dollars to get services for people. some parts of this state have roads through areas that are quite deserted at times.

  32. - Not so simple - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 2:21 pm:

    I thought the closing of the rest stops was coordinated with the sale of the State planes. Make Madigan drive to Springfield but close all the rest stops. But have you seen the rest stops in Iowa? World class and not kidding.

  33. - Little Ed - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 2:27 pm:

    Privitazation so frequently looks desirable to improve services, reduce costs, or provide a revenue stream. Too often is does not meet those expectations and often we are in a worse position in the end.

    Plus the rest areas provide a business opportunity for blind vendors to service the vending machines. 70% of blind people are unemployed. I would not want them to lose this chance to make a modest living and engage in productive work.

  34. - Thoughts Matter - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 2:46 pm:

    No. Don’t close any either. We need more. As a female of a certain age, I need a restroom more often than some of you. Rest area bathroom are 99% clean. They only need more hand dryers than they typically have in Illinois. There are some restaurants/ gas stations (Livingston il) that put signage up saying their restrooms are only for paying customers. There are some gas stations that give me the creeps in terms of feeling safe.
    I know people who stop at rest areas and take a nap. Can’t do that at a restaurant or gas station. You can walk your pet or let the kids play. I have noticed a few playgrounds at dove resr areas.
    Would be nice if the rest areas highlighted the restaurants at the upcoming exits.

  35. - Last Bull Moose - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 2:46 pm:

    I voted no. I do not trust the Rauner administration on this privatisation.

  36. - Shemp - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 2:51 pm:

    Iowa’s done a nice job updating theirs on I-80. Just sayin.

  37. - Bill R - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 2:57 pm:

    The current federal law provides a carefully-negotiated balance between the rights of blind persons wishing to make a living through the excellent services they offer and the interests of gas stations and businesses in nearby towns. Some private rest areas would still need taxpayer support to be operated with the amenities people say they want.

  38. - Charlie Dennis - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 3:13 pm:

    I vote NO. The Illinois rest areas provide jobs and taxable income for blind vendors.. their families and employees (and their families). Without these jobs the blind vendors would be a burden to taxpsyers instead of joining their ranks as they do now.

  39. - Lawman - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 3:18 pm:

    Given the Springfield warehouse contract, the state managed care contract, the state IT contracts, the state employees web site development contract, etc. etc. and the lack of transparency in selection of vendors for these state contracts, privatization of rest stops would probably not be in the best interest of taxpayers.

  40. - Common Sense - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 3:25 pm:

    If privatized it will put a lot of workers on the public dole and will decrease IDOT workers by 0. According to President Trumps infrastructure package ALL highways will become tollroads. IDOT has already spent over five million dollars updating several highway rest areas

  41. - wordslinger - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 4:12 pm:

    I’m a long-haired country boy, I grew up on a farm.

    My rest area is where ain’t nobody looking.

    Having said that, I join the bipartisan chorus across the political spectrum who say that you can’t trust Rauner on anything.

    He’s earned that.

  42. - Generic Drone - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 4:25 pm:

    Nope. If profit doesnt meet expections, then the taxpayers will have to bail out those businesses and be left fixing the mess afterwards. Need to look beyond the short term gain.

  43. - Wonder - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 4:27 pm:

    We need to keep rest stop open

  44. - Viv - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 4:49 pm:

    Don’t want rest stops to be privatized, it would put many friends and family out of work. We love Illinois rest stops just the way they are

  45. - Pot calling kettle - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 5:01 pm:

    Voted yes, but with the caveat that the facilities can be used at no charge. We took a vacation east this summer and Ontario and Quebec both have rest stops with multiple amenities, they were well kept and very nice. I expect there would be a lot of local pressure to not allow this because the exits seem to be profitable business locales.

  46. - Bliz - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 5:04 pm:

    The rest areas need to stay the way the are now. I would hate to see friends and family out of work due to privatizing.

  47. - Anonymous - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 5:07 pm:

    Let’s see a cost-benefit analysis.

  48. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 5:31 pm:

    Voted Strong No. First of all, appears there’s concurrence that privatization ain’t working out too well for Illinois. Secondly, I don’t want to see the DD and Visually Handicapped folks lose the jobs at which they have provided yeoman service over the years. Let’s spend a few bucks to get them shiny bright and welcoming, not like the lousy one here in Springfield. I hate being second to Iowa in anything, but in Rest Stops? Cmon man, we can do this.

  49. - wordslinger - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 5:38 pm:

    –Secondly, I don’t want to see the DD and Visually Handicapped folks lose the jobs at which they have provided yeoman service over the years.–

    Agree, 100%.

    It’s been a long time, but what was the name of the fella who had the newsstand under the Dome? Freddy? Heckuva a cat. Is he still with us?

  50. - Anonymous - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 5:40 pm:

    Privatization of rest areas would cause the loss of a job to many in our state who have special needs that do not allow them to have other jobs, i.e. the visually impaired. This would be a huge loss to each family as well as the public who truly need the rest stops.

  51. - igotgotgotgotnotime - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 7:51 pm:

    Experience tells us that none of the commons should ever be privatized.

  52. - Just Me - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 9:19 pm:

    Nobody gets upset with the Tollway oases having private sector amenities. State rest stops should follow the same formula and bring in some easy cash to IDOT and improve the aged facilities.

    I don’t know if the oases are privately managed or not, but the point is still that these rest stops are a lost opportunity and congrats to the Rauner administration for thinking big.

  53. - cannon649 - Monday, Oct 30, 17 @ 9:56 pm:

    yes with restriction

  54. - justpeachy - Tuesday, Oct 31, 17 @ 2:37 pm:

    Not sure how they should be managed but they should be opened for sure. I just returned from a trip and as soon as we hit the Illinois state line, rest areas were closed. Welcome to Illinois, we just keep embarrassing ourselves.

  55. - Janet Wetmore - Tuesday, Oct 31, 17 @ 4:11 pm:

    I voted NO! I have had the pleasure of working in the Illinois Rest Area System for many years. Without question they are the nicest rest areas in the country. This is told to me on a daily basis while at work. The rest areas are clean and the personnel who provide the basic services, most of whom have a disability and are genuinely appreciative to have the opportunity to work, are always very friendly. Travelers of all types AND their pets deserve a nice place to pull off the highway and seek a bit of rest and relief without the added pressure of deciding how much of their hard earned money they are going to have to part with. They can always go to a travel plaza or truck stop for that. Keep the rest areas as they are and please put an end to this nonsense about privatization.

  56. - Cyclenut - Tuesday, Oct 31, 17 @ 9:52 pm:


  57. - Anonymous - Thursday, Nov 2, 17 @ 4:14 pm:

    This would put developmental disabilities and blind people out of business. So that’s why I said no.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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