AUGUSTA, Maine — Dena Worster of Palymra is one of many supporters who back legislation submitted by Sen. Doug Thomas, R-Ripley, to reopen the Pittsfield rest areas.
The north and southbound Interstate 95 rest areas, which for years provided lots of room for long-haul truckers to park and rest, public restrooms and a picnic area, were closed by the Department of Transportation last year as a cost-savings measure. The buildings were left in place, but the properties were gated off.
“I think it’s a shame to have that rest area there and have it not be used,” Worster said Thursday.
She’s not alone in those thoughts.
Thomas said he submitted LD 5 at the request of several of his constituents who are frustrated with the lack of rest stops on the stretch between Bangor and Augusta. His proposed bill also asks that the state plow the northbound scenic overlook on Interstate 95 in Medway.
“I was contacted by a number of my constituents who expressed their displeasure that this particular rest area had been closed,” Thomas said this week in a statement. “Among the people who contacted me were a number of veterans who relied on having a place to stop when making one of their many trips to Togus.”
In addition to the veterans, Worster said there are families with small children and long-haul truckers to consider. Her husband, Glenn Worster, and other long-haul truckers depend on rest areas for safety, comfort and rest, she noted.
“There are many times when they are on the last few minutes of their schedules and they can’t make it to their destination and they have to pull off someplace [to relieve themselves],” Worster said.
“That is a critical part for them, not only for safety, but if they run out of time, they’ve got to have a place to pull out,” Worster said.
Parents with small children don’t necessarily want to get off the interstate, go through traffic, and haul their children through restaurants and stores for bathroom stops, according to Worster.
She called it a lack of “foresight” on the part of those who closed the well-used facilities.
That sentiment was echoed by Thomas, who noted that the Maine DOT spent $1.5 million in 2002-2003 to update the buildings and grounds of the facilities, he said.
Mark Latti, spokesman for the department, said Thursday that the cost of operating and maintaining the two facilities would be about $220,000 a year.
A public hearing will be held on LD 5 at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25, in the Legislature’s Transportation Committee Room. Thomas has asked that those who support such a move attend the public hearing and testify, if they desire. Those unable to attend may submit written testimony to Thomas that he will share with the Transportation Committee members.