Policy Analysis | August 2019

Operation of State Rest Areas and Welcome Centers

Nick Bowman

Rest areas, or safety rest areas as they were known at the time, emerged with the creation of the interstate highway system in the 1950s. With picnic areas and restrooms available at no cost to travelers, rest areas arose as a way to take a break from interstate travel. In the decades since the first rest areas were constructed, fast food restaurants and convenience stores have appeared close to interstates and highways, providing motorists with additional options. In recent years, several states, including Florida, Michigan, Ohio and South Dakota, have closed rest areas to minimize maintenance costs. Other states, such as Missouri, have privatized the operation of rest areas and welcome centers.

The table lists the agency or department responsible for operating and maintaining rest areas and welcome centers in the 15 Southern states and provides a hyperlink to that agency’s website. In eight states, two agencies are responsible for operating rest areas and welcome centers. In the remaining seven states, one agency is responsible for operating rest areas and welcome centers.

Operation of State Rest Areas and Welcome Centers

State

Operates Rest Areas

Operates Welcome Centers

Two Agencies for Rest Areas and Welcome Centers

Alabama

Department of Transportation

Department of Transportation

No

Arkansas

Highway and Transportation Department

Department of Transportation, Department of Parks and Tourism

Yes

Florida

Department of Transportation

Visit Florida

Yes

Georgia

Department of Transportation

Explore Georgia

Yes

Kentucky

Department of Tourism

Department of Tourism

No

Louisiana

Department of Transportation & Development

Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism

Yes

Mississippi

Department of Transportation

Visit Mississippi

Yes

Missouri

Infrastructure Corporation of America and DBi Services

Infrastructure Corporation of America and DBi Services

No

North Carolina

Department of Transportation

Department of Commerce

Yes

Oklahoma

Department of Transportation

Travel Oklahoma

Yes

South Carolina

Department of Transportation

Department of Transportation

No

Tennessee

Department of Transportation

Department of Transportation

No

Texas

Department of Transportation

Department of Transportation

No

Virginia

Department of Transportation

Department of Transportation

No

West Virginia

Department of Transportation

Division of Tourism

Yes

Additional Reading

Jenni Bergal, “Why old-fashioned highway rest stops are disappearing,” USA Today, April 1, 2017, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2017/04/01/highway-rest-stops-disappearing/99868368/.