Pols eye plan for privately owned rest area
By DAVE GRAM
The Associated Press | August 24,2012
MONTPELIER — Vermont could have its first privately operated highway rest stop if a proposal for such a development in Randolph clears regulatory hurdles.
The Legislature’s Joint Transportation Oversight Committee got a briefing Tuesday on a proposal by Randolph property owner Sam Sammis to develop property near Exit 4 on Interstate 89 that would include a traditional rest area with an adjacent Vermont Products Showcase, where makers of Vermont products would be able to display their wares to the traveling public.
Randolph had more basic rest stops along the interstate about a mile north of Exit 4, but the one on the northbound side was closed several years ago in a cost-cutting move, and the one on the southbound side is likely to suffer the same fate in the next few years.
The loss of the northbound rest stop left the interstate without one between Sharon and Williston, a gap of some 65 miles, officials said.
Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding told the legislative committee on Tuesday that Sammis’ proposal appeals to lawmakers because one rest stop, just off the exit and therefore accessible to travelers in both directions, would be built and operated without public funds.
“This is a very interesting possibility for the state of Vermont and would provide an opportunity to find out if these kinds of public-private partnerships actually will work,” Spaulding told the committee.
He told the panel that the administration has the power under current law to proceed without lawmakers’ approval, but he added that “the Legislature should be involved, aware of what we’re doing and hopefully supportive of it.”
Sammis testified by telephone, telling lawmakers he hoped to be able to charge rent to companies, colleges and other institutions that wanted to promote themselves at the Vermont Products Showcase. He said the proposal is part of a larger project he has under regulatory review for housing, offices and light manufacturing off the interstate exit.
Vermont Castings, a maker of wood stoves and other heating devices, “could have five or six stoves, and they’d have a salesperson, and somebody would come in and take a look at a stove, and they could order one and have it delivered to their house,” Sammis said. The same could be true for other vendors, including Vermont cheese and jelly makers, he said.