ADOT to reopen five highway rest areas

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Department of Transportation released some good news for summer travelers. ADOT will reopen five of the state's highway rest areas by the end of July, helping to expand the opportunities for travelers to make rest stops along some of the busiest routes in Arizona.

In October, ADOT announced plans to temporarily shut down 13 highway rest areas due to the state's budget crisis, declines in transportation revenues and a need to focus on critical wintertime safety.

Five rest areas remained open at the time: Burnt Well (I-10), Painted Cliffs (I-40), Sunset Point (I-17), Sentinel (I-8) and Texas Canyon (I-10).

Now, ADOT reports that five rest areas can be reopened because of a stabilizing financial situation, and through careful planning and budgeting. Ehrenberg (I-10), Canoa Ranch (I-19), Meteor Crater (I-40), Sacaton (I-10) and San Simon (I-10) are set to open by the end of July.

Another four rest areas -- Bouse Wash (I-10), Hassayampa (U.S. 60), Haviland (I-40) and McGuireville (I-17) -- will undergo additional repairs in an effort to open in the fall.

Mazatzal (S.R. 87), Mohawk (I-8), Parks (I-40) and Salt River Canyon (U.S. 60) will remain closed due to serious repair issues.

When the nine closed rest areas reopen, bringing the total number of operational rest areas to 14, services will again be provided to more than 50,000 drivers and passengers each day.

Each year, Arizona spends about $320,000 per rest area for maintenance, electricity and water services, according to ADOT officials.

According to a news release from ADOT, most of the state's rest areas are at least 40 years old and in need of major improvements. The agency said it can keep them functioning to meet basic needs, but longer-term solutions have to be explored to establish rest areas as a permanent part of Arizona's highway infrastructure, including opportunities through privatization and partnerships that are being addressed with lawmakers and regulators at the national level.

"The closure of rest areas is not a problem of any one state. This is a problem of federal law, which prohibits the exploration of real solutions and punishes states with younger infrastructure," said Gov. Jan Brewer. "The federal government should allow privatization of rest areas as part of the nation's highway system, but too many limitations place the full financial burden on states, and that's where hard choices have to be made."