Postcards: Rest-Stop Revival
Rest areas lure drivers with improved amenities
By Matt Joyce
Long drives are part of the reality of traveling in Texas, especially if you want to visit the range of distinctive destinations across the state. The Texas Department of Transportation is well aware of Texans’ propensity for highway travel—hence its ongoing effort to improve safety rest areas and reduce fatigued driving.
You may have noticed the new or renovated rest stops near places like Salado, Three Rivers, or Winnie. The department has rebuilt 41 of its 78 safety rest areas since work began in 2001, says Andy Keith, director of engineering support in the TxDOT Maintenance Division.
“The whole purpose of the rest areas is to provide a safe place for travelers to stop to take a break,” Keith says. “The old little pull-offs on the side of the road with bare structures weren’t serving the purpose.”
The new rest stops are designed to reflect local culture and geography. For example, in Donley County in the Panhandle, the eastbound rest area on I-40 features Art Deco architecture and neon lights reminiscent of the heyday of old Route 66. Near Corsicana, the new rest stops along I-45 incorporate the gabled roofs and deep porches common in the local architecture of the Blackland Prairie.
The new rest areas also feature amenities like more bathrooms, expanded parking, heating and air conditioning, enhanced security, playgrounds, walking and interpretive trails, and lobbies with displays on local history and industry. “We want people to stop and use them,” Keith says. “So when they get back on the road, they’re better equipped to handle it.”
John Esparza, president of the Texas Motor Transportation Association, a trucking industry group, said the expanded parking areas for trucks are a welcome safety benefit.
More new safety rest areas are on the way this year with stops along I-35 near Hillsboro and Cotulla. A map is available on the TxDOT website.
From the April 2013 issue.