Public outcry and complaints from the trucking industry helped save two rest areas on I-84 in Willington from closure.
The measure passed the House 141-6 and the Senate 29-7 shortly before the close of the legislative session Wednesday. The reversal means the state will have to find about $460,000 to keep the rest areas open for another year.
Malloy’s Budget Director Ben Barnes said he doesn’t know exactly what will happen, but the five positions in the budget related to the rest areas were restored.
“I think it’s a reasonable amount of money. Clearly we have to make a go of it to address the individual and safety concerns,” said Barnes.
Rep. Anthony Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, who was instrumental in negotiations to keep the rest areas open, noted that truckers have mandated rest periods and even non-commercial drivers need to stop on long trips.
“We preach safety on the roads – we say, ‘If you’re tired, pull over, rest, take a break.’ Closing the rest areas send the opposite message,” Guerrera said.
During debate on one of the budget implementers in the Senate it came to light that there were septic problems at the West Willington rest area, which could cost upward of $5 million to repair.
Guerrera said if the state has to add portable toilets to the site to keep it open, it will.
“The summer vacation driving season is just about here. People will need these rest areas and I am happy Governor Malloy was so receptive to keeping them open,” Guerrera said.
Republicans also applauded the decision.
“Our ultimate goal is to ensure optimum public safety, and to accomplish that through sound fiscal and public policy,“ Rep. David Scribner, R-Brookfield, said. “Rep. Guerrera and I have worked side by side to ensure that the legislature and the administration resolve this ill advised initiative that would compromise that interest.”
Michael Riley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, said truckers were already hit this session with additional vehicle and fuel increases and don’t deserve to have their rest areas taken away. Currently there are between 1,000 and 1,330 more parking space for truckers to use to rest than are available every night in Connecticut.
Plans to close rest areas in Danbury, Southington, North Stonington, Middletown, and Wallingford will be re-evaluated in the 2012 legislative session.