Private Rest Area: A Good Opportunity for…?

Vermont has been saving pennies by closing Interstate highway rest areas, and for years the state has not provided sufficient funds to properly upgrade and maintain those that have remained. So pennywise and pounds foolish, it seems the state must be searching for schemes to keep rest areas available. One scheme apparently not under consideration is, you know actual proper funding of the facilities.

Now if you owned a large industrial park near an interstate and were offered a state backed monopoly business deal at the nearest highway exit, would you jump at the deal? How about if the state guaranteed no competition for many miles north and south?  

From VPR News:  So the Shumlin Administration has backed a plan by developer Jesse "Sam" Sammis to build a rest area and visitors' center off I-89 Exit 4 in Randolph. Said Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding […]"If it goes forward it seems like a good opportunity for the Vermont taxpayer, the traveling public and for Vermont producers to have a place to display their products," he said.

 

“Sam” Sammis, Chairman of the New England Land Company of Greenwich CT and Randolph VT, owns projects in Vermont including The Green Mountain Stock Farm and Green Mountain Office and Industrial Park.

"I said it's a good idea, but how am I going to make this thing work financially? I've got to pay to build the buildings, put the infrastructure in," he said. Sammis said he plans to use a site next door to showcase Vermont products. He would charge companies rent to display their goods.

How well would this possibly work financially? How on earth could an exclusive State of Vermont deal at a heavily trafficked interstate highway interchange benefit financially someone that owns the surrounding 170-acre office/industrial park?

State studies from an earlier 2010 effort at this project by Sammis showed that by closing the existing rest areas combined with installing Vermont promtional signage on the Interstate, 500,000 travelers would "be put on the doorstep" of a commercialized area annually.

Getting the centers off the Interstates, [Department of Buildings and General Services Commissioner Gerald Myers] added, would make it possible to have retail sales on-site, something prohibited on federally-owned land.

No mention has been made of any remuneration to the state for its guarantee of non-competition or its promotional signs directing weary, rest-room-needy travelers to the privately owned commercial venture at Exit 4.

It's beginning to sound like our Granite State neighbors to the East, where they sell liquor at the rest areas, just in case there aren't enough drunk drivers on the road. But then again, selling liquor is exclusively a state prerogative over there.

So there you go, Sammis is the first to potentially have a state-blessed but otherwise unregulated monopoly with zero accountability. You want one? The key is on the hook. It's around back. (Psst, don't tell WalMart!)

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