State budget cuts leading to changes at CT rest areas - WFSB 3 Connecticut

State budget cuts leading to changes at CT rest areas

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Budget cuts impact hours at CT rest areas (WFSB) Budget cuts impact hours at CT rest areas (WFSB)
DANBURY, CT (WFSB) -

Nearly two million New Englanders were expected to hop in the car to travel to their Thanksgiving destination this year, according to AAA.

Odds are those travelers were going to stop along the way to find a restroom, but budget cuts have made that a bit tougher in Connecticut.

There are signs at the entrance of each of the state’s seven basic rest areas along I-84, I-91, and I-95, saying the buildings are now closed from 3:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. the following day.

Instead of finding an indoor toilet and plumbing to use, drivers in need of a break are now greeted by port-o-potties.

"I think it's terrible,” said Sarah Mustoe, of New Jersey.

The idea of closing the rest areas completely has been in the works for a while.

The Department of Transportation’s budget for 2012-13 called for temporarily closing the rest areas and boarding up the buildings, saving more than $2 million over the two-year period.

DOT officials said they were able to scrimp and save from other areas at the time, to keep the rest areas open.

A few years later, in 2015, the legislature approved a nearly $3 million contract to renovate the Willington rest areas, fixing the septic system and making improvements to the building.

Three million dollars later, the newly renovated buildings are complete, but now open only seven hours per day.

"There's lots of places to go to the bathroom. None of those sell gas, and we have lots of places… 23 modern facilities to do just that. In difficult times, you have to make some difficult decisions on what you can and can't afford,” said Gov. Dannel Malloy.

Connecticut has service plazas with food and fuel along I-95, I-395, and Route 15.

They are mostly in the southern and eastern parts of the state. There are none along I-84 or I-91.

The seven rest areas can’t be changed to service plazas with food and fuel because of federal law dating back to the 1960s. In part, banning new commercial development on the highways.

The DOT has now put out a call for sponsors for the rest areas, kind of like the Adopt-A-Highway program.

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