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2013-10-22 / Opinion

Guest Viewpoint

Assemblyman Clifford W. Crouch

CrouchCrouchIn his 2010 budget, Gov. David Paterson budgeted $1.1 million in savings by temporarily closing rest areas across the state. It has been three years since the closures occurred due to the then-budget crisis.

Currently, rest areas across the state, especially two rest areas along Interstate 88, one eastbound and the other westbound, are still closed from the 2010 closures. Three years later, this no longer counts as a “temporary closure.” These rest stops are simply closed. All the rest stops on New York’s highways should be reopened in order to help ensure the safety of drivers and passengers.

As part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “It Can Wait” initiative, most highway rest areas now proudly display the words “Text Stop” to encourage drivers to not text-and-drive. While it is safe and convenient that most state rest areas are now labeled as “Text Stops,” drivers are still unable to access and use some facilities due to gates and construction signs that read “CLOSED.” On that same token, when out-of-state drivers come into the state, one of the first things that they see is shuttered and weed-overgrown rest areas, which is embarrassing.

Drivers and their passengers remain at risk for many reasons if these closed rest areas are not reopened. For example, tractor trailer drivers are very restricted to where they can park their vehicle to sleep or rest, and with these rest areas still closed, they are further limited on that choice.

New York State’s obligation to provide a safe driving environment for all New Yorkers means these closed rest areas must be reopened – it is beneficial for everyone. The whole purpose of a rest area, be it rest rooms, sleeping, eating, stretching or texting, is for driving relief. If we are not providing that simple service to drivers, we have failed in our mission to provide the safest road conditions possible.

After three years, the rest areas listed as “temporarily closed” are still not open to the public or to drivers and their passengers. I encourage the governor to closely examine this issue and reopen all the rest areas that were closed in 2010 in his 2014-15 budget. Doing so would provide as many rest areas, including texting zones, as possible to all drivers on every highway of the state as part of his commitment to provide safe driving for all drivers and their passengers.

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