LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) –Arkansas highway rest areas are something tourists and truckers rely on daily. But there is concern over the quality and upkeep of the facilities. You asked, so we listened and we looked into the condition and status of our local rest stops.
Across the state of Arkansas, there's a total of 14 rest stops. For motorists, they're a convenient place to take a break, but not for the Arkansas Department of Transportation.
"Rest areas are a maintenance nightmare they're open around the clock, there's no security there. We have people trying to flush anything you can imagine down the toilet," said Danny Straessle, spokesperson for the highway department.
Arkansans have taken notice. One viewer sent us a message that said, “we recently stopped at one between Gurdon and Prescott and found the facilities to be in shabby condition.” Another described them as "nasty, smelly, not safe!" And someone else commented, "poor compared to other states."
Straessle admits there's need for improvements. "The buildings are old, some of the drives could probably be repaved, some of the picnic shelters could be redone as well."
Viewers were concerned about what this means for the image of our state; What are the plans for improvement; What are the priorities for repairs; And is funding an issue?
"We're funding today’s needs on yesterday’s money," said Straessle. "We have the 12th largest highway. The gas tax that funds that hasn't been raised since the late 90’s so you only imagine what the cost of construction has done since that time."
As for improvements, leftover enhancement funds allowed for three rest areas with high traffic volume to be remodeled into tourist’s information centers. They'll have video kiosks in it so that you can check iDriveArkansas for travel conditions. They’ll also have some touch screens for local amenities.
The new self-service centers include the social hill rest area on I-30 that just opened last week. Then along I-40/Big Piney and White River are all open.