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INDOT invests $600 million into rest stops and welcome centers over ten years

An image shows the design of the reconstructed Clear Creek Welcome Center near West Terre Haute, Indiana. (Image Provided/Indiana Department of Transportation)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indiana Department of Transportation has allocated an estimated $600 million investment over the next ten years to update the welcome centers and rest stops in Indiana.

INDOT says the main goal of the investment is to the welcome centers in Indiana a go-to destination for travelers.

There are two welcome centers underway. The Clear Creek project will cost an estimated $53.5 million, and the Black River welcome center comes in at $39.9 million.

“A big reason behind this overhaul and these upgrades in safety,” Natalie Garrett, the INDOT strategic communication director, said. “We want people to have a safe place they can stop as they are traveling.”

The Clear Creek welcome center is on I-70 eastbound near Terre Haute, while the Black River welcome center is on I-64 eastbound near Poseyville.

“Some of these facilities will have interactive exhibits involved on the inside,” Garrett said. “Some walking paths and recreation facilities will be constructed.”

“The Clear Creek welcome center near Terre Haute is kinda racing-inspired. There will be an exhibit relating to Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” Garrett said. “Another example is the Black River welcome center down in southwest Indiana in Posey County. (It’s) inspired by Lincoln’s Boyhood Home.”

The overhaul will add 1,100 additional truck parking spaces across the state.

“They are held to certain requirements that they have to stop so often, with hour limitations,” Garrett said. “Also giving them a safe place to stop, rest, recharge.”

Some of the rest stops will have additional amenities for truck drivers. “Some private restroom facilities with showers will be an added bonus,” Garrett said.

Rest areas and welcome centers are regulated by the federal highway administration, and because federal funding comes from that agency, commercialization of rest areas is not allowed.

Both the north and southbound truck parking facilities in Lebanon and the Clear Creek and Black River welcome centers closed in June of this year, but the reopening date hasn’t been set.

The Kankakee southbound welcome center and northbound truck parking facility will reopen this fall.

“A rest area basically serves three functions – it is a place to hold travel and tourism literature about the state, it is a place to go to the bathroom and a place to provide safe overnight parking for truckers.

While expensive state-of-the-art rest areas might make some positive impressions on travelers who are already coming to Indiana as they stop for a bathroom break, these opulent toilets are highly unlikely to ever recoup their $600 million price tag. 

One currently under construction in Northwest Indiana cost $35 million, ostensibly to impress Chicago-area travelers coming here. Another one near Terre Haute along I-70 is projected for $53 million. 

For $53 million, toilets had better be plated in gold.

Part of the issue here is a federal law that prohibits commercial development along freeway corridors. If these rest areas were built and operated by private companies and allowed to offer services, such as food and gasoline, it would be able to generate revenue and pay for itself, and thus not be a burden on taxpayers.

Every time the government spends your money, it should be weighing both the costs and benefits. To have a gold-plated boutique bathroom stop and a place for some assorted travel pamphlets is a waste of taxpayer money that could better be used on improving the roads, or returned to those it belongs to, the people.”

Evan McMahon, Chairman, Libertarian Party of Indiana