Virginia’s Interstate Rest Areas are about to become commercial ventures, and the company that will run them promises to bring in some common conveniences. More from WFIR’s Evan Jones.[audio:http://wfirnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/08-31-Rest-Areas-Wrap1-WEB.mp3|titles=08-31 Rest Areas Wrap1-WEB]
Here is Governor McDonnell’s complete news release:
RICHMOND – Governor Bob McDonnell announced today that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has awarded a contract to CRH Catering Co., Inc. to develop and manage a new program that will expand traveler services at the Commonwealth’s 42 safety rest areas and welcome centers, and to generate additional revenue to offset rest area operating costs.
Welcome center visitors will soon see ATMs and kiosks with interactive touch screens that provide additional information on many of Virginia’s top attractions and travel destinations. Motorists can also expect expanded vending operations with more choices for food, beverages and merchandise. These enhanced services will be implemented at no cost to VDOT under the agreement.
“As part of this innovative program, we see great opportunity to offset rest stop costs now and into the future,” said Governor McDonnell. “This contract represents an innovative initial step forward to enhance the travelling public’s experience and maximizing the revenue-generating assets of our rest areas within the confines of federal law. Partnering with the private sector will enable us to expand and improve the services that we offer visitors while saving taxpayer dollars.”
VDOT issued the request for proposal in March seeking new solutions as part of its Sponsorship, Advertising and Vending Enhancement (SAVE) program.
The new contract requires CRH to pay VDOT an annual guaranteed rights fee of approximately $2 million, an increase from the $1.7 million VDOT currently receives from vending and advertising. During the initial three-year contract, this annual fee will provide nearly $1 million in additional revenue to help offset costs for operating the rest areas. VDOT will also receive annual revenue-sharing payments based on a percentage of sales generated from sponsorship, advertising and vending operations. These revenue-sharing payments are expected to increase during the next several years as the economy improves and organizations realize the marketing opportunities presented by the SAVE program.
“Our safety rest areas and welcome centers get an average of 90,000 visitors daily and approximately 33 million annually,” said Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton. “These facilities serve a critical role in reducing driver fatigue and providing information on Virginia’s many travel attractions. While fully privatizing operations at our rest areas is prohibited by federal law, the SAVE program will enable marketers to effectively and cost-efficiently promote their goods and services to a significant number of motorists as they take a break while traveling through the Commonwealth, while saving the taxpayers money.”
CRH, based in Connellsville, Pa., currently provides vending services at 30 of Virginia’s safety rest areas through offices in Richmond and Norfolk. It will partner with several companies recognized as industry leaders to bring greater levels of cooperation and expertise to this new initiative. These firms include Highway Information Media LLC (HI Media), StrongPoint Capital LLC (SPC) and Travelers Marketing. HI Media, based in Ashland, Va., specializes in traveler-focused marketing and manages a pilot project involving interactive touch-screen kiosks at four Virginia welcome centers. SPC is a full-service ATM company located in Woodstock, Va. Travelers Marketing, a strategic marketing company based in Wellesley, Mass., will manage the contract’s sponsorship component.
“VDOT is committed to finding and implementing innovative ways to improve Virginia’s transportation system and better serve the citizens and businesses of the Commonwealth,” said Gregory Whirley, Commissioner of Highways. “The SAVE program does exactly that.”
The contract will have a three-year term beginning Sept. 1, 2011, with renewal options for up to four additional years. Vending and welcome center advertising no longer will be managed by the Virginia Department for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the Virginia Tourism Corporation, respectively, but these partnering agencies will continue to share in revenue from the SAVE program.
At the direction of Governor McDonnell, VDOT recently reviewed non-public funding options for Virginia’s safety rest areas and published a report that included proposals such as expanded vending, indoor advertising and facility sponsorship. The report can be found at http://vtrc.virginiadot.org/PubDetails.aspx?PubNo=11-R22
More information regarding Virginia’s safety rest areas and welcome centers can be found at http://www.virginiadot.org/travel/map-rest-area.asp