Improvements ceded In Management Of Highway Safety’ est Area rogram B-164497(3) Federal Hlghway AdmInIstratIon Department of Transportation BY THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES COMPTROLLER GENERAL OF 1 HE UNITED STATES WASHINGTON DC 20548 B- 164497(3) To the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Thus IS our report on the improvements needed m the management of the hlghway safety rest area program. Fed- eral partlclpatlon m this program IS admmlstered by the Federal Highway Admmlstratlon, Department of Transporta- tron Our review was made pursuant to the Budget and Ac- counting Act, 1921 (31 U S.C 53), and the Accounting and Auditing Act of 1950 (31 U S.C. 67) Copies of this report are bemg sent to the Director, Office of Management and Budget, the Secretary of Transpor- tation, and the Administrator, Federal Highway Admmistratlon Comptroller General of the United States 50 TH ANNIVERSARY 1921- 1971 COMPTROLLERGENERAL'S IMPROVEMENlS NEEDED IN MANAGEMENTOF HIGH- REPORTTO THE CONGRESS WAY SAFETY REST AREA PROGRAM Federal Hlghway Admlnlstratlon, Department of Transportation B-164497(3) DIGEST ------ WHYTHE REVIEW WASMADE Safety rest areas are essentially rural facllltles designed to provide motorists with adequate opportunities to stop safely and rest for short periods. They may include such comfort and convenience facilities as drinking water, plcnlc tables, and refuse containers. Costs of constructing these areas are generally shared by the States and the Federal Highway Administration. Through 1970, about $166 mll- lion of Federal funds had been authorized for the construction and im- provement of 1,209 rest areas. The General Accounting Office (GAO) conducted a review in eight Staies to determine whether the Highway Admlnlstratlon was providing States with the guidance and control necessary to ensure that --rest areas were constructed first where most needed and --Federal financial partlclpation was llmlted to the cost of facile- ties and equipment reasonably necessary to meet motorists' needs. FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS Although the Highway Admlnlstratlon has issued guidelines for the States to use In selecting sites for safety rest areas, it has not required the States to establish and adhere to a system of priorities to ensure that rest areas are constructed first where most needed. (See p. 6.) Studies conducted by the Highway Adminlstratlon indicate that use of rest areas on interstate highways tends to increase as the distance from other rest areas and/or developed areas increases. The States included in GAO's review, however, had constructed rest areas close to developed areas even though comfort and convenience faclllttes gener- ally were not available along stretches of highway without adequate stopping facilities. (See pp. 8 and 9.) Tear -- Sheet JUNE 2A971 To increase the effectiveness of the safety rest area program, the Highway Admlnlstratlon should require that States build rest areas first where comfort and convenience facilities are not otherwlse avallable. The HIghway Admlnlstratlon has Issued guidelines to the States as to the size and type of facilities required for various traffic volumes; however, lt has not required the States to adhere to these guIdelInes. As a result, rest areas included in GAO's review that had been designed to serve similar volumes of traffic --had bulldings which ranged in size from 320 to 1,400 square feet and which cost from $10,650 to $90,000, --were located on from 3 to 44 acres of land, and --provided from 14 to 102 parklng spaces. The cost and quality of equipment for these rest areas also varied widely. (See p. 18.) GAO belleves that, although regIona differences in archltectural styles and bulldIng materials and practices may have accounted for some of these variations, the wide vanatlon of facllltles and equipment re- su'lted because the HIghway Admlnlstratlon had not provided the States WI th specific guIdelInes for rest area facllltles acceptable for Federal funding. The HIghway Admlnlstratlon needs to provide and enforce guldellnes re- lating to the size, type, quality, and cost of safety rest areas that ~111 be acceptable for Federal financial partlclpatton. RECOMMENDATIONS OR SUGGESTIONS The Secretary of Transportation should require the Federal HIghway Ad- mjn1stratjon to --Require the States to establish pr-rorltles to ensure that safety rest areas ~111 be constructed first where most needed (See p 17.) --Issue guidelines regarding safety rest areas setting forth limits on the amount of land and on the size, type, and cost of facllltles and equipment that ~111 be acceptable for Federal flnanclal partlc- lpation. (See p. 35 ) --Establish review procedures at the national level to ensure that these pnontles and guIdelines are being followed. (See pp. 17 and 35 ) 2 AG@K2?ACTION? AND Uli?RESOLVED ISSUES The Asslstant Secretary for Admln?stratlon, Department of Transporta- tlon, agreed that priority should be gtven to constructing rest areas along stretches of highway presently wIthout adequate stopping faclli- ties and said that the Department would continue to stress this prjority. The Assistant Secretary stated that the States had developed master plans for the location of safety rest areas which were being used in substantial conformity with existing guidelines. (See p. 15.) The eight States included in GAD's review had developed State-wide mas- ter plans which showed existing and proposed locations for safety rest areas. The Highway Administration approved the plans even though --most of the plans showed that the States intended to construct rest areas in or near urban areas, and --most of the States had not established pnonties to ensure that rest areas would be constructed first where most needed. The Assistant Secretary stated also that the Department would continue surveillance of the design of safety rest area facllltles, lncludlng the location and acquisition of land, to ensure that Federal funds were properly spent, but that he did not believe that it would be proper to establish speclflc cost llmltatlons for equlpJnent. (See p. 34.) GAO belleves that requiring the States to establish and adhere to a system of prlorltles for optimal locations of rest areas should help to * ensure that she needs of motorists are met. For a program--such as the safety rest area program--for which the Government generally funds up \, to 100 percent of the cost, the Highway Admin?stratlon should prescribe guidelines for acceptable facilities and equipment to ensure that the needed rest areas are being provided at a reasonable cost. (See pp. 17 and 34.b MATTERSFOR COAWDE~TIOIV BY THE COUGRESS This report IS being issued to advlse the Congress of the need for the Federal Highway Administration to improve its administrative guidance and control over the hlghway safety rest area program and thereby lm- prove the program's effectiveness in meeting the needs of motorists. Tear Sheet Contents Page DIGEST 1 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 4 2 REED TO IMPROVE ADMINISTRATIVE CONTROL OVER PLANNING AND LOCATION OF SAFETY REST AREAS 6 Nevada 10 Florida 11 Agency comments and our evaluation 15 Conclusions 17 Recommendation to Secretary of Trans- portation 17 3 REED TO PROVIDE GUIDELINES FOR DESIGN ANDI CONSTRUCTION OF SAFETY REST AREAS 18 Facilities 22 Comfort station buildings 22 Land 25 Parking spaces 26 Equipment 28 Picnic tables 29 Refuse containers 33 Agency comments and our evaluatxon 34 Conclusion 34 Recommendation to Secretary of Trans- portation 35 4 SCOPE OF REVIEW 36 APPENDIX I Letter dated December 23, 1970, from the As- sistant Secretary for Administration, De- partment of Transportation, to the Gen- eral Accounting Office 39 Page APPENDlX II Officials of the Federal Government respon- sible for the administration of activities dicussed in this report 48 ABBREVIATIONS AASHO American Association of State Highway Officials FHWA Federal Highway Administration GAO General Accounting Office COMPTROLLERGENERAL'S IMPROVEMENTSNEEDED IN MANAGEMENTOF HIGH- REPORTTO THE CONGRESS WAY SAFETY REST AREA PROGRAM Federal Highway Admlnlstration, Department of Transportation B-164497(3) DIGEST ------ WHYTHE REVIEW WASMADE Safety rest areas are essentially rural facllltles designed to provide motorists with adequate opportunities to stop safely and rest for short periods. They may include such comfort and convenience facilities as drinking water, picnic tables, and refuse containers. Costs of constructing these areas are generally shared by the States and the Federal Highway Administration. Through 1970, about $166 mil- lion of Federal funds had been authorized for the construction and im- provement of 1,209 rest areas. The General Accounting Office (GAO) conducted a review in eight States to determine whether the Highway AdministratIon was provldang States with the guidance and control necessary to ensure that --rest areas were constructed first where most needed and --Federal financial participation was limited to the cost of facile- ties and equipment reasonably necessary to meet motorists' needs. FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS Although the Highway Administration has issued guidelines for the States to use in selecting sites for safety rest areas, it has not required the States to establish and adhere to a system of priorities to ensure that rest areas are constructed first where most needed. (See PO 6 ) Studies conducted by the Highway Administration indicate that use of rest areas on interstate highways tends to increase as the distance from other rest areas and/or developed areas increases. The States included in GAO's review, however, had constructed rest areas close to developed areas even though comfort and convenience facilities gener- ally were not available along stretches of highway without adequate stopping facilities (See pp. 8 and 9 ) 1 To Increase the effectiveness of the safety rest area program9 the Hlghway Admlnlstratlon should require that States build rest areas first where comfort and convenience fac~l~t1e.s are not otherwise avaIlable. The Highway Adminlstratlon has issued guidelines to the States as to the size and type of facllltles required for various traffic volumes, however, it has not required the States to adhere to these guldellnes. As a result, rest areas included in GAO's review that had been designed to serve slmllar volumes of traffic --had butldlngs which ranged in size from 320 to 1,400 square feet and which cost from $10,650 to $90,000, --were located on from 3 to 44 acres of land, and --provided from 14 to 702 parking spaces. The cost and quality of equipment for these rest areas also varied widely. (See p. 18.) GAO belleves that, although regional dtfferences In architectural styles and building materials and practices may have accounted for some of these variations, the wide variation of facllltles and equipment re- sulted because the H-rghway Admlnlstratlon had not provided the States with specific guidelines for rest area facilltles acceptable for Federal funding. The HIghway Administration needs to provide and enforce guidelines re- lating to the size, type, quality, and cost of safety rest areas that will be acceptabfe for Federal financial participation. RECOMi'dBWDATIONS OR SUG?GBSTIOfiS The Secretary of Transportation should require the Federal Highway Ad- ministration to --Require the States to establish priorities to ensure that safety rest areas will be constructed first where most needed. (See p. 17.) --Issue guldellnes regarding safety rest areas setting forth limits on the amount of land and on the size, type, and cost of faclllties and equipment that ~177 be acceptable for Federal financial partic- lpat-ion (See p. 35.) --Establish review procedures at the national level to ensure that these pnoritles and guidelines are being followed. (See pp. 17 and 35 ) 2 AGENCYACTIONS AND UNRESOLVEDISSUES The Assistant Secretary for Admlnlstratlon, Department of Transporta- tion, agreed that prlonty should be given to construct7ng rest areas along stretches of highway presently without adequate stopping faclll- ties and said that the Department would continue to stress this priority. The Assistant Secretary stated that the States had developed master plans for the location of safety rest areas which were being used In substantial conformity with existing guIdelines. (See p. 15.) The eight States Included In GAO's review had developed State-wide mas- ter plans which showed exlstlng and proposed locations for safety rest areas The Highway Administration approved the plans even though --most of the plans showed that the States -intended to construct rest areas in or near urban areas, and --most of the States had not establlshed priorities to ensure that rest areas would be constructed first where most needed. The Assistant Secretary stated also that the Department would continue surveillance of the design of safety rest area facllltles, lncludlng the location and acquisition of land, to ensure that Federal funds were properly spent, but that he did not believe that it. would be proper to establish speclflc cost limitations for equipment. (See p. 34.) GAO believes that requiring the States to establish and adhere to a system of priorities for optimal locations of rest areas should help to ensure that the needs of motorists are met. For a program--such as the safety rest area program--for which the Government generally funds up to 100 percent of the cost, the Highway AdmInistration should prescribe guidelines for acceptable facilities and equipment to ensure that the needed rest areas are being provided at a reasonable cost. (See pp. 17 and 34.) MATTERSFOR CONSIDERATIONBY T3E CONGRESS This report IS being Issued to advise the Congress of the need for the Federal Highway Admlnlstratlon to improve Its administrative guidance and control over the highway safety rest area program and thereby lm- prove the program's effectiveness in meeting the needs of motorists. CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION The Hrghway Beautrfrcatron Act of 1965 (23 U.S.C. 131 note) provrdes for scenrc development and beautrfrcatron of roads in the Federal-aid hrghway program. The act established the following program areas. Cl) outdoor-advertrslng con- trol, (2) Junkyard control, and (3) landscaprng and scenic enhancement. Our review was drrected prlmarrly toward examining into the manner rn which the Federal Highway Admlnlstratson (FHWA), Department of Transportation, the prrncrpal Federal agency responsible for highway matters, was carrying out its respon- slbllltres with regard to landscaping and scenic enhancement, with particular emphasis on FHWA's admrnlstratrve guidance and control over the locatron and constructron of safety rest areas. Safety rest areas are off-roadway areas with provr- sions "for emergency stopping and for resting by motorrsts for short periods, with comfort and convenience facrlrtres dr;rcdc." Prior to the 1965 act, the States were authorized by 23 U.S.C. 319 to include rn the cost of Federal-aid hrghways subject to the normal cost-sharing ratios--90 percent Federal to 10 percent State for interstate highways, and 50 percent Federal to 50 percent State for primary and secondary hlgh- ways-- the cost of "such roadside andlandscapedevelopment, rncludang such sanitary and other facrlrtres as may be deemed reasonably necessary to provrde for the surtable accommoda- tron of the public ***oll FHWA generally lrmrted Federal par- trclpatlon on the Interstate Highway System, however, to the costs of acqursltron of land, and constructron of turnouts and parkrng areas. The 1965 act which, among other things, revised 23 U.S.C. 319, retained the provision for Federal partrcrpatlon In the cost of landscaprng and scenic enhancement as a part of Federal-aid highway projects and authorized an addrtlonal al- location of appropriated funds to a State to be used for land- scaping and scenrc enhancement equivalent to 3 percent of the funds apportioned to the State for Federal-ard highways. 4 In accordance with the provisions of the 1965 act, FHWA revised its program to authorize Federal participation in the costs of such items as comfort stations, picnic tables, shelters, cooking facilities, and facilities to display trav- eler information. As of December 31, 1970, Federal funds of about $166 million had been authorized for the construction and improvement of 1,209 safety rest areas. In the eight States included in our review, 236 rest areas had been con- structed or authorized for construction as of December 31, 1970, at a cost to the Government of about $32 million. FHWA's administrative responsibilities are carried out principally by FHWA division offices in each State, the Dis- trict of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Each State has the pri- mary responsibility for initiating proposals for safety rest areas, determining their location and size, and choosing the type of Federal partlcrpatlon. The States submit proposals to the responsible divlsron office for approval. Normally the division offices approve safety rest areas on the basis of policy and procedural requirements promulgated by FHWA headquarters. In addition, division offices rely on infor- mational guides developed by the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) and subscribed to by FHWA. AASHO is a nationwide organization of representatives from each State's highway department and FHWA. The obJective of the organization is to advise State and Federal highway officials in establishing a well-coordinated system of na- tional highways. Through the years AASHO has issued policy statements and guides on a broad spectrum of highway-related matters, including safety rest areas. CHAPTER 2 NEED TO IMPROVE ADMINISTRATIVE CONTROL OVER PLANNING AND LOCATION OF SAFETY REST AREAS Although FHWA has established fairly definitive guide- lines for the States to use sn selecting sites along Federal- aid highways for safety rest areas, FHWA has not required States to establish and adhere to a system of prlorltles to ensure that safety rest areas are constructed at locations which would meet the motorists' greatest need. Generally, for the safety rest areas included in our review, the States had followed the practice of constructing safety rest areas on Federal-aid highways in close proximity to urbanized or commercialized areas even though comfort and convenience facllltles were not available along stretches of highway wlth- out adequate stopping facilities. The basic objective of the safety rest area program is to provide, for safety and convenience, adequate opportunities for the highway traveler to stop and rest for short periods. FHWA guidelines describe safety rest areas as essentially rural facllltles which should be developed 1.n a manner that the facilities, in combination wrth commercial facilities, would provide motorssts with safe stopping places at reason- ably spaced intervals. USHO issued a policy statement on the locatron of safety rest areas In the Interstate Highway System in 1958. The guidelines contained in this policy statement, which were adopted by FHWA, state that "Safety rest areas should be provided so' that in combination with other stopping opportunities within or near cltles and at service facilities on crossroads with interchange connections, there preferably will be facilltles available for short stops about every one-half hour driving time." Revised guidelines issued by AASHO in 1968 contain a similar statement. According to AASHO, the distances between available service facilities at crossroads and interchanges should be considered as one of the controlling factors in planning safety rest areas. 6 FHWA instructions issued in 1966 state that "Safety rest areas should be located at practl- cable and suitable distances from the outer edges of suburban or urban development. Safety rest areas and similar facilities in connection with Federal-aid highways in the metropolitan areas are special cases and will require careful planning and justification of need." The term "practicable and suitable distances from the outer edge of suburban or urban areas" was defined by FHJ?A in March 1965 as follows “MC* [on the Interstate System] safety rest areas should be well removed, perhaps 10 miles or more, from the edges of suburban or urban development, *** l ” "-k-k* [on the primary system] Safety rest areas are not to be approved within or near the devel- oped areas, urban and suburban, of vrllages, towns, cities or rural industrial developments." The rnstructlons state also that rest areas "are not essen- tial facllltles in or near developed communities where local parks and roadsrde businesses furnish necessary motorist ser- vices and convenrences." Locating highway safety rest areas away from commercial- rzed or urbanized areas apparently was intended by FHWA, at the begrnnlng of the program, as a means of ensuring that the traveler would be provided with some type of safe stop- ping place and comfort and convenience facllltles at regu- larly spaced intervals and that, to achieve this objective, safety rest areas should be built first at those locations where such facilities were not otherwise available. F'HMA advised us that, although the guidelines requiring that rest areas be placed at practicable and suitable drs- tances from the outer edges of suburban and urban development were appropriate during the initial stages of the program, the guidelines were under study for possible modsfrcatlon. FHWA stated that, with the complexity of urban highway systems, 7 it might be desirable, sn some instances, to locate a rest area near an urban area and thereby provide an opportunity for a traveler to rest and read his map prior to entering the urban area. FHWA stated also that in some instances it might be desirable to include a visitor information center as part of the safety rest area development. FHWA stated further that the availability of a potable water supply or other utilities might dictate the location of a rest area in or near an urban area. In addition, FHWA advised us that the policy which en- couraged safety rest areas away from commercial facilities-- which was suitable sn 1966 when interstate highway rest areas were few and far between-- also was under consideration for change. F'HWA stated that it was neither proper nor safe to require a highway traveler to leave the interstate highway and find a roadside business to provide him with comfort fa- cilities. We recognize that certain changes and modifications of program policy are likely to occur as thus program evolves, and we agree that changes should be made if they are in the best interests of the highway traveler. We believe, how- ever, that there is some question as to the advisability of the changes contemplated if they are being considered on the basis of what will best serve the highway traveler. FBWA has conducted national rest area usage studies within the past 3 years to determine the present demand for and characteristics of the use of existing rest areas. The studies were based on data collected on rest area usage, na- tionwide. The most recent study was conducted during the summer of 1970. The lnformatlon in these studies indicates that use of rest areas on interstate highways tends to in- crease as the distance from other rest areas, cities, and developed areas increases. In addition, the most recent study lndlcates that,on the average, about 70 percent of highway travelers sampled stopped for the purpose of using the rest rooms or resting and that, on the average, less than 4 percent stopped for the purpose of using the telephone or getting travel information. On the basis of these studies, it appears that the inr- tial guidance to the States relative to the desirability of locating safety rest areas away from urbanized or commercral- szed areas continues to have validrty. With regard to FHWA's belief that 1.t 1s neither proper nor safe for a highway traveler to leave an Interstate hrgh- way to find comfort facllltles, the highway traveler must, of necessity, leave the interstate highway for any number of reasons, such as to obtain gas, food, and lodging. AASHO and FHWA criteria require that Interstate highway interchanges be designed to provide for safe exzt from and reentry onto the system, Further, although FHWA stated that the avallable potable water and other utllltres may dictate that rest areas be located near urban areas, we were advised by FHWA offrclals that the maJorlty of these problems were encountered 1.n the southwestern part of the United States. Also we found no evidence that the locations for the rest areas included in our review had been selected prlmarrly on the basis of the 'avallablllty of potable water and other utllltles. We selected 61 safety rest areas In eight States In five FHWA regions for review. Of these 61 rest areas, 24 were located wrthln 2 miles and 10 addstlonal were located erther within 5 miles of towns or communrtles or wlthrn 5 nnles of commercral or public facrlrtles. FHWA considered two of these rest areas to be special cases and, rn accordance with exrstrng gurdellnes, required the States to Justify their need, For most of the rest areas, however, we found no evr- dence that FHWA had questioned locating them near urbanized or commercralrzed areas. The following cases illustrate the types of site locations selected by the States and approved by FHWA that conflicted with the overall gurdelrnes deslgned to provrde safety rest areas along stretches of highway wlth- out adequate stopping facllltres. 9 NEVADA At the time of our fleldwork In Nevada, eight hlghway safety rest areas had been completed. Of the eight areas, four were located wlthln the crty limits of communltles and two were located wlthln 5 miles of communltles. At the same time there were many remote and sparsely populated areas In the State where there were few, if any, comfort and conve- nlence facllltles along the highways. For example, there were no safety rest areas on the maJor hlghway between the Utah-Nevada border and the town of Wlnnemucca, Nevada, a distance of about 235 miles. On the basl; of our review of safety rest areas In both Nevada and other States, we concluded that extensive use of rest areas located In close proxlmlty to communltles by res- idents of the communltles tended to restrict the avallabll- lty of the facllltles to travelers. For example, we noted that the parking lot of the safety rest area located in the town of Hawthorne, Nevada, was being used by customers of the grocery store and service station located directly across the street. In addition, the town restricted the hours during which the rest area was available and thereby further reduced Its usefulness to motorists. (See photo- graphs below.) SAFETYRESTAREA- HAWTHORNE,NEVADA 10 FLORIDA FHWA approved Federal participation m the construction cost of two safety rest areas--Silver Beach and Gulf Breeze-- in the State of Florida that are located on two-lane roads along which there are extensive commercial facilities, even though there were long stretches of highway in other parts of the State where few public comfort and convenience facile- ties were available. Gulf Breeze is located near Pensacola, Florida, and Silver Beach is located about 40 miles east of Gulf Breeze on the route which generally follows the Gulf Coast of Florida. Both safety rest areas are basically rec- reation orlented. In June 1966, FHWA approved Federal participation in the acquisition costs of beach property at Silver Beach to pre- serve the natural scenic quality of the area. At that time it was not antended to develop the property for active rec- reation or associated uses. In December 1967, FHWA approved Federal participation in the costs of developing a rest area on the property, including construction of three comfort sta- tion buildings, six picnic pagodas, 12 plcnlc pavlllonsp and other associated facilities. The Federal cost amounted to about $423,000, including about $110,000 for the land. The Silver Beach safety rest area (see photograph on p,, 12) 1s located among a number of commercial facilities, including restaurants, motels, and service stations. About 5 miles west of Silver Beach there are numerous commercial facilities and about 10 miles west there is a State park, a wayside park, and a city park, all of whichhavecomfort and convenience facilities. During visits to the Silver Beach safety rest area, we noted that most of the visitors were swimmers. State offi- cials advised us that the State had anticipated and designed Silver Beach to meet the recreational needs of visitors and that showers for the convenience of swmmers were going to be added at the State&s expense. FHWA also participated in the costs of developing a safety rest area at Gulf Breeze. The facilities include a comfort station, 20 picnic tables with shelters, and 32 auto- parking spaces. The comfort station also has showers, the 11 RTMENT OF TRANSPORTAT] SILVER BEACH SAFETY REST AREA - FLORIDA cost of which was borne by the State. Federal costs for this rest area amounted to about $90,000. The Gulf Breeze safety rest area 1s on the oceanfront and adJacent to the south end of the old Pensacola Bay Bridge which IS advertised as the world's longest flshlng pier. The driveway through the safety rest area leads to the old bridge About 3 miles north, across the new bridge, IS a State wayside park having complete comfort and conve- nience facllltles slmllar to those provided at the safety rest area, lncludlng parking spaces for about 140 cars, (See photographs below > There 1s a public faclllty 3 miles southeast of the safety rest area that also has complete comfort and convenience facllltles Also there are numerous commercial facilities, such as service stations, restaurants and motels, wlthln 2 miles east and 5 miles west of the safety rest area. * a GULF BREEZE SAFETY STATE WAYSIDE REST AREA PARK Although neither the law nor FHWA regulations preclude States from constructing safety rest areas on Federal-aid highways at locations which naturally encourage recreation as a primary actlvlty and only lncldently provide highway 13 travelers with safety rest stops, rt appears that these two safety rest areas should not have been given prlorlty over other rest area locations because there are many other pub- lic and commercial faclllties In these areas avallable to travelers for recreatron and safety rest stops. There are, however, long stretches of highway In less developed areas of the State where no such facilltles are available. 14 AGENCY COMMENTS AND OUR EVALUATION In a draft report submitted to the Secretary of Trans- portation for comment, we proposed that FHWA require each State to establish and adhere to a system of priorities, to ensure that safety rest areas to be constructed on Federal- aid highways are provided first in those locations where most needed. The Assistant Secretary for Administration, Department of Transportation, by letter dated December 23, 1970, com- mented on the matters discussed in our draft report. Cer- tain of the Department's comments relative to our findings have been discussed on the preceding pages. In specifically commenting on our proposal, the Assistant Secretary stated that he agreed that priority should be given to rest area construction along stretches of highway without adequate stopping facilrties and that the Department would continue to stress this in its administration of the program. He stated also that the States had developed master plans which were being used substantially in conformity with FHWA and AASHO guidelines and that, of the 385 rest areas planned on controlled-access highways in Region 3, 62 have already been constructed He stated further that the re- mainlng 323 rest areas were on a priority schedule generally established by a combination of miles of highway and traffic needs, and that the master plans for this region showed an orderly system of development. In addition, he said that the necessity and Justification for any significant vari- ations would be given careful consideration by FHWA and the States on proJect-by-proJect basis. With regard to the States' master plans, we found that the eight States included in our review had developed State- wide planning documents which showed existing and proposed locations for safety rest areas and that FHWA had approved the plans even though (1) most of the plans showed that the States intended to construct rest areas in or near urban areas, in direct conflict with the policy in effect at the time, and (2) most of the States had not established pri- orities to ensure that the rest areas would be constructed first where most needed. 15 We found that the master plan for the one State Included in our review, which is within the jurisdiction of FHWA Re- gion 3, showed only planned and existing rest area locations without indlcatlng the priority for their constructron. We noted that there were a slgnlficant number of safety rest areas yet to be constructed on controlled-access highways in the State. These areas apparently had prroritles lower than those of other rest areas which had already been constructed on non-controlled-access, relatively low-traffsc-volume roads, some of which were located near highly developed tourist ar- eas. In further commenting on our proposal regarding prrori- ties, the Assistant Administrator pointed out that conslder- able savings in cost could be achreved by lncludlng site preparation work for a safety rest area as a part of a hlgh- way construction project and that rn such cases priority de- termlnatrons for the highway project, rather than the safety rest area, should dominate. In summary, he advised us that each safety rest area was considered rn the light of Its con- sonance with the State's overall need when the proposed area was submitted for approval and that its prlorlty was evalu- ated at that time. We agree that, where possible, States should include safety rest areas as part of highway constructron projects. It should be noted, however, that 74 percent of the mileage of the Interstate Highway System was opened to traffic as of December 31, 1970, and that much of the remaining mileage was urban or suburban in character. In addition, in the States where we made our review, many of the rest areas In existence were constructed after the highways had been completed, Of the 181 rest areas planned for construction on the Interstate System in the eight States, 78 will be located on portions of the system which are currently open to traffic. FHWA officials have pointed out that the overall cost of the safety rest area program is relatively small compared with the cost of the Federal-aid highway program and that it therefore receives proportionately less administrative atten- tion. Although the safety rest area program is small compared with the highway construction program, about $166 million has 16 already been authorized for the safety rest area program. A program costing that amount appears to warrant prudent management. The size of the program should not be the only factor for determining the amount of control to be exercised by FHWA. FJ3WAshould exercise the control necessary to en- sure that the national objectives of the program are accom- plished. CONCLUSIONS The purpose of the safety rest area program is to pro- vide a place for motorists to stop and rest for short periods. The safety rest areas we revlewed generally had been con- structed near urban areas or commercial or public facilities which already had comfort and convenience facilities avail- able. Although there may eventually be enough rest areas to adequately serve the safety rest needs of the motorists, we believe that FHWA needs to establish, and to require the States to adhere to, policies and procedures designed to ensure that safety rest areas are provided first in those areas where no such facilities are available. We believe also that, unless such action is taken, the States will con- tinue to construct safety rest areas at locations which may not be of the most benefit to motorists in terms of provid- ing such facllitles along stretches of highway without ade- quate stopping places. RECOMMENDATION TO SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION We recommend that the Secretary of Transportation re- quire that FJ3WArequire the States to establish priorities to ensure that the safety rest areas will be constructed first at locations where most needed and to establish review procedures at the national level to ensure that such priori- ties are being followed. 17 CHAPTER 3 NEED TO PROVIDE GUIDELINES FOR DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OF SAFETY REST AREAS FHWA needs to provide, and to require the States to adhere to, definitive guidelines relative to the size, type, quallth and cost of safety rest areas acceptable for approval for Federal financial particlpatlon. Although FHWA has pro- vided some guidance to the States, particularly with regard to such things as the amount of land to be developed and the number of parking spaces required for various traffic volumes, FHWA had not required the States to adhere to such guide- lines. Generally FHWA's practice seems to have been to approve and authorize Federal financial participation In the cost of acquiring, constructing, and equipprng safety rest areas of virtually any size or quality proposed by the States. As a result, there is a striking variance in the type, size, quality, and cost of safety rest areas constructed by the various States to serve similar types and volumes of traffic. Some States usually provide large, elaborate facilities with customized equipment, while other States provide facilities and equipment which are comparatively small and austere. Although regional differences in architectural style and generally accepted building materials and practices may have accounted for some of these variations, we believe that the extent of these variations resulted because FHWA had not provided and required the States to follow definitive guide- lines as to the size, type, quality, and cost of safety rest areas acceptable for approval for Federal financial partrci- pation. In the safety rest areas included in our review, we noted that comfort station buildings designed to serve slm- nlar volumes of traffic ranged in size from 320 to 1,400 square feet and In cost from $10,650 to $90,000. The number of automobile-parking spaces provided ranged from 14 to 102, and the area of land acquired ranged from 3 to 44 acres. The cost and quality of the equipment acquired for the rest areas also varied widely. 18 As early as July 1965, an FHWA headquarters official advised FHWA field personnel that some States, in antrcipa- tlon of the Highway Beautification Act, were planning rather extensive and costly rest areas on the Interstate System and that there might be a need to establish uniform cost-control limits. In January 1967, another FHWA headquarters official advised FHWA field personnel that he had noted "wide varia- tions in the scale of provisions for parking, picnic and comfort facilities" provided by the States and asked the States for a report on "rest area design guides and opera- tional experience of the States ***." Replies received from the States indicated that as of March 1967 there was a significant lack of uniformity on the location and cost of rest area facilities among the States. In a memorandum to the regrons and States dated October 3, 1968, FHWA noted that the number and, in some instances, the quality of rest areas on the Interstate Highway System varied greatly from State to State. I Even though FHWA has long been aware of these slgnlf- icant variances in the safety rest areas provided by the various States on the Interstate System and the other Federal-aid highways, F'HWA has not provided the States with definitive guidance as to the type and quality of facilities and equipment to be provided in safety rest areas. FHWA guidelines issued in 1966 for all Federal-aid highways point out that rest and recreation areas "are to be provided with comfort and convenience facilities *** reason- ably necessary to accommodate the traveling public" and that safety rest areas are for emergency stopping and for resting by motorists for short periods and could include such com- fort and convenience facilities as drinking water, toilets, tables for meals, walkways, open shelters, bulletin boards, refuse containers, lighting installations, and signs. The guldellnes state also that simple types of design of suitable appearance for each installatron that will be durable and maintainable at low cost should be adopted for all facilities FHWA has suggested that, for design concepts, the States consider the AASHO guidelines issued in 1958 and 1968 on safety rest areas. These guidelines contain little guidance, however, on the type and quality of faclllties and equipment 19 to be provided, other than to point out that the obJective of such facilities should be to provide reasonable conve- nrence and comfort to motorists. The AASHO guidelines state that the decrsion as to the extent of such facilities depends on the pollcres and prac- tices of the various State highway departments that are based on their experiences. As early as 1958, however, the AASHO guidelines recognized that each item added to comfort and convenience facilities entailed not only additional costs for installation but also addltronal continuing costs for maintenance in a pleasing condition. FHWA advised us that, contrary to our opinion as to the lack of definitive guidelines for comfort station buildings, there had been maximum size limits set and that the lobby size had been based on the number of comfort facilities within a building. We found that early in 1966 one FHWA re- gion had provided the States under its Jurisdiction with "some ideas" with respect to the size of buildings which might be provided on the basis of varrous traffic volumes. Overall lobby size in these buildings was generally related to the number of comfort facilities within the buildings. In 1968, this same region definitized these ideas by setting maximum size limits for Federal-aid participation in the cost of comfort station buildings. The llmrts were based on the total number of comfort facilatles within the building and were related to traffic volume factors. We found no evidence, however, that the other regrons included in our review had adopted these maximum limits. In fact, one FHWA official from another region stated that within hrs own region there was no need for imposing maximum limits on the costs for rest area facilities and that, on a nationwide basis, if it were apparent that things were getting out of hand there mrght be a need in the future for definitive cri- terra relative to the extent of Federal participation in the costs of rest area proJects. FHWA also advised us that a number of safety rest areas built early in the program had proved to be inadequate and undersized and that rt was costly to redevelop them to meet the new levels of traffic and use, FHWA stated that safety rest areas recently or currently being built were more closely meeting existing and proJected needs and requirements. 20 FHWA lndlcated that It had encouraged rest area upgradlng where It felt that a State's design was too frugal and aus- tere and that It had asked for restraint where It felt that a design was too elaborate and costly. On the basis of our review, we tend to agree with FHWA that some of the rest areas built early In the program are inadequate and undersized and that It probably would be costly to redevelop them, Some of the safety rest areas be- ing constructed at the time of our review, however, were of the same size and design as those which had been built at the lnceptlon of the States' programs. For example, in two of the States included In our review, a one-size, one-design comfort station building was used for all safety rest areas, regardless of the traffic volume of the highways to be served. If FHWA 1s concerned about the cost of redeveloping comfort station bulldings, we find It dlfflcult to under- stand why FHWA permltted these States to continue to con- struct such bulldlngs. The fact that one State builds ex- tremely modest 320-square-foot bulldIngs to serve relatively large volumes of traffic while another State builds an ex- tremely lavish 1,323-square-foot bulldlng to serve an rela- tlvely small volume of traffic indicates that FHWA's con- trol over the States' programs 1s inadequate. Some examples of the variances In the size of the safety rest area facllltles and type of equipment provided are presented below 21 FACILITIES Comfort statlon buildings Some States provide buildings which are srmply designed and functronal while other States "express their hlstorlcal heritage by way of the visual impact of their bulldings ***.'I Among the States where we made our reviews, Missouri pro- vided the smallest comfort station buildings. Each of the buildings was about 320 square feet In size and was designed to serve traffic volumes ranging from 5,500 to 19,300 cars daily. The costs of the buildings ranged from $10,500 to $16,320, depending on location and the cost of labor. They were generally constructed of cinder block and included toi- let facilities and small utility rooms. (See photograph and floor plan on p. 23.) The comfort station bulldings constructed rn New Hamp- shire were a striking contrast to the buildings constructed rn Missouri. Most of the buildings in New Hampshire were large-- ranging from 700 square feet to 1,475 square feet in size--and usually contained lobbies, utility rooms, base- ments, caretakers' rooms, information booths, and flre- places. Although the size and cost of New Hampshire's comfort station buildings generally seemed to be somewhat related to the volume of traffic to be served by the bulldings, we noted that a large, elaborate safety rest area had recently been constructed on a section of the interstate highway near the town of Springfield which has a relatively low traffic volume. This comfort station building 1s 1,323 square feet in size-- one of the largest In the State--and cost about $90,000, a higher cost than that of any of the other burldrngs in our review. The building contains such amenities as a spacious lobby, a large stone fireplace, a caretaker's room with stove and refrigerator, and an lnformatron booth. The floor- to-celling picture windows overlook a scenic view of the surrounding mountains In contrast to the size of the build- ing, the parking area had spaces for only 15 automobiles. (See photograph and floor plan on p, 24.) 22 MEN I COMFORT STATION STATE OF MISSOURI 320 SQUARE FEET 23 I r\, ENTRY INFORMATION MEN LOBBY ATTENDANT5 II i COMFORT STATION STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE 1323 SQUARE FEET (ALSO H AS bL FULL BASEMENT WITH UTIL .ITY ROOM) 24 Land Although FHWAhas provided the States with farrly de- finitive guidelines as to the practical maxlmum limits for the number of acres of land required to develop a rest area with full comfort and convenience facilities, FHWAhas not required the States to adhere to such guidelines. It has long been recognized that the amount of land required for rest area facilities is related to, among other things, the volume of traffic to be served by the facilities. The guide- lines suggest from 5 to 8 acres for rest areas to serve a relatively small traffic volume--under 10,000 vehicles daily--from 6 to 10 acres for a medium traffic volume-- 10,000 to 25,000 vehicles dally--and from 8 to 12 acres for a large traffic volume --more than 25,000 vehicles daily. The amount of land on which rest areas were constructed In the eight States included in our review ranged from --2 to 42 acres for rest areas serving small tr'affic volumes, --5 to 38 acres for rest areas serving medium traffic volumes, and --3 to 44 acres for rest areas serving large traffic 2 volumes. FHWAstated that the amount of land needed for rest areas varied because the land need for parking areas might vary with the design year and forecast of traffic, the type of vehicles, the type of traffic, the availability of land because of terrain, the State's prerogative to build a full faclllty initially or in stages, and the economies assocl- ated with the purchase of full parcels rather than several remnants. We recognize that the amount of land acquired for safety rest areas will vary, depending upon the type and amount of traffic eventually to be served by the facilrtres and the avallability of land. We also agree that, in some cases, more land than is actually needed must be acquired for such reasons as the owner's being unwilling to sell only part of a parcel or the acquisition of one parcel's eliminat- ing access to other parcels, 25 As previously indicated FHWAhas issued guidelines to the States relative to the minimum and maximum number of acres of land required for development of rest areas to serve various volumes of traffic. In establishing these guidelines, FHWAtook into consideration such things as the types and projected volumes of traffic and the ultimate de- velopment of full rest area facilities. Thus we believe that the minimum and maximum number of acres specified in the guidelines, revised when necessary, should be used as a basis for establishing the amount of land eligible for Fed- eral financial participation. We believe also that FHWAshould require a State to justify any purchase of land which significantly exceeds the number of acres suggested in the guidelines and that, if the State cannot justify the purchase of the additional land, FHWAshould limit Federal participation to the cost of ac- quiring the number of acres required to provide a facility adequate to serve the expected volume of traffic. Parking spaces FHWAand MSHO have long recognized that the need for parking spaces at rest areas is directly related to the vol- ume of highway traffic to be served. FHWAguidelines sug- gest that up to 30 parking spaces be provided for a small traffic volume, up to 40 for a medium traffic volume, and up to 60 for a high traffic volume. Parking spaces provided at the rest areas included in our review ranged from --11 to 93 for small-volume facilities, --13 to 82 for medium-volume facilities, and --14 to 102 for high-volume facilities. As previously indicated, we recognize that various fac- tors, such as the type of traffic and the amount of land available for use, have a bearing on the number of parking spaces to be provided. In view of the suggested relation- ship between traffic volume and parking spaces needed, how- ever, it is difficult to understand FHWA's basis for approv- ing Federal participation in financing the construction of a safety rest area in California which provides only 14 26 parking spaces to serve an interstate highway having a high potential traffic volume and of a safety rest area in Flor- ida which provides 93 parking spaces to serve a two-lane road havrng a very low potential traffic volume. Both of these rest areas are located in heavily tourist-orznted areas and are In close proximity to commercial and public facilities. 27 EQUIPMENT The cost of certain basic items of equipment generally found In the safety rest areas Included In our review varred significantly from State to State. Although FHWA and AASHO have suggested that prcnic tables, refuse containers, bulle- tin boards, and sun shelters be provided whenever possible, FHWA has not provided the States with maxrmvm limits on the amount of Federal participation rn the cost of such items of equipment. As a result, some States provide functional, relatively inexpensive equipment, while other States provide custom-designed equipment apparently chosen more for Its esthetic value than for Its functronal value, We found that the cost of --picnic tables varied from $75 to $628, --refuse containers varied from no cost to $200, and --bulletin boards varied from $250, to $3,500. In addition, we found that certain States and Federal agencies within those States often had purchased slmllar items of equipment at considerably lower costs. Although the variation in the cost of each item of equipment may not be substantial when considered separately, the acqulsitlon of more costly equipment than necessary could have a significant overall effect on the Federal par- tlclpatlon in the cost of the program, especially when con- srdered in light of the fact that the States are planning to construct about 1,000 addrtional safety rest areas on the Interstate Highway System. FHWA stated that it had been aware of variations in the cost of certain equipment found in safety rest areas and indicated that these variations, across the country, were not unexpected and not necessarily unreasonable, FHWA stated that the variations had been brought about, in part, by such economic and marketing factors as supply and demand, labor and materials, transportation, and the controls some- times placed by Government and labor organizations on mate- rials, labor, and products and that, because these factors varied so much and changed so often with the local or na- tional economy, placing any dollar cost limit on items of 28 basic equipment would be arbitrary and difficult to admln- ister. Likewise, purpose and desrgn will vary between items ostensibly having simrlar functions. We recognrze that all of these factors would have some effect on the cost of various items of equipment furnished in safety rest areas. We believes however, that the wide variatrons in type and cost of equipment encountered in our review were not the sole result of such factors, partlcu- larly since we found wide variances in both type and cost of items in adJacent States. The variances in these adJa- cent States were caused primarily by the fact that one State chose to use custom-designed equipment while the other State used "off the shelf" items. Presented below are examples which, In our opinion, Illustrate the need for FHWA to provide to the States guide- lines setting forth the type and cost of equipment eligible for Federal particrpatlon. FHWA should approve any signifi- cant deviations from such guidelines only if a State shows that the high costs for certain items of equipment are caused by economic factors of the types mentioned by FHWA. Picnnlc tables Most of the States included in our review provided sim- ple all-wood or wood-and-pipe frame picnic tables in their highway safety rest areas. In some States the tables were attached to concrete slabs, and in other States the tables could be moved from place to place. (See photographs on p. 30.) The cost for these types of tables ranged from $75 to $210. 29 STATIONARY PICNIC TABLE MOVEABLE PICNIC TABLE In their safety rest areas, however, Florlda and Call- fornla provided plcnlc tables which were elaborate in de- sign and which cost considerably more than those the two States and certam Federal agencies provided for use In State and national parks Also, the tables Florida and Cal- lfornla provided m their rest areas cost considerably more than did the tables provided by the other States included in our review. 30 CALIFORNIA PICNIC TABLE The picnic tables California provided in some of its highway safety rest areas have truncated, diamond-shaped tops made of clear redwood supported by concrete pedestals, (See photograph above.) The cost of these tables ranged from $175 to $500. In contrast, in its parks and recre- ational areas California provided standard redwood picnic tables which cost about $85 each. We also noted that in its recreational facilities the Western Region of the Na- tional Park Service, Department of the Interior, which serves California, generally provided a wood table with metal supports and two benches that cost about $80, in some cases it provided concrete and redwood tables or all- concrete tables. 31 FLORIDA PICNIC TABLE The picnic tables Florida provided in some safety rest areas had concrete-slab tops and seats, both covered with ceramic tile, and were supported by prestressed-concrete columns which were cemented to a concrete-slab foundation. (See photograph above.) The cost of these tables ranged from $480 to $1,100. State officials advised us that, although ceramic tile shattered easily and was expensive to reparr or replace, this type of table was easy to maintain, and that concrete, instead of wood, had to be used because of the termite problem in the State. Florida apparently is the only State which provides ceramic tile-covered tables. State officials advised us that they were considering other types of tables. We noted that in its State parks Florida provided treated-pine picnic tables which cost about $30 each. In its recreational areas the National Park Service, South- east Region, provided wood-and-pipe frame tables which cost about $46 each. Also in a national forest in Florida the Department of Agriculture provides concrete-slab picnic tables which cost about $158 in 1966. On the basis of information supplied by Department of Agriculture officials, we estimated that these tables would cost about $210 at the time of our review. 32 Refuse containers In their safety rest areas, two of the States Included In our review provided recondltloned 011 drums and paint barrels and furnished them at no cost to the Federal Gov- ernment, while other States provided metal trash cans which were anchored to the ground and which cost about $40 each. Callfornla, however, p rovlded both recondltxoned 011 drums and precast-concrete trash cans. The precast-concrete trash cans cost up to $200 each. (See photograph below.) CALIFORNIA REFUSE CONTAINERS 33 AGENCY COMMENTS AND OUR EVALUATION In commenting on our proposal that FHWA develop, and require the States to adhere to, specific guidelines regard- ing safety rest areas setting forth limits ‘on the amount of land and on the size and type of facilities and equipment that would be acceptable for Federal partlclpatlon, the As- sistant Secretary for Administration, Department of Trans- portation, stated that FHWA would continue surveillance of the design of these facilities, including location and land acquisition, to be certain that Federal funds were properly and wisely spent and that, in revising the current guide- lines, FHWA would consider the advisability of specific guidelines along the line recommended by us. He stated also that FHWA would continue to furnish information and guidance to the States on the design and purchase of rest area equipment to be certain that the Fed- eral funds were properly spent but that he did not believe that it would be proper to establish specific cost limita- tions for equipment. We believe that, in the absence of such guidelines re- garding the type and cost of equipment acceptable for Fed- eral financial partxipation, there will continue to be a lack of assurance that needed facilities are being provided at reasonable costs. We believe further that in a program such as this, in which the Federal Government generally contributes up to 100 percent of the funding, it is incum- bent upon the administering agency to prescribe definitive guidelines. CONCLUSION The States included in our review generally acquired land and provided facilities and equipment which varied widely in terms of size, quality, type, and cost. In view of the nationwide character and scope of this program, and since the Federal Government generally contributes up to 100 percent of the funding, we believe that it is reasonable to expect that FHWA would provide more definitive guidelines to the States as a means of controlling the costs of this program. 34 RECOMMENDATION TO SECRETARYOF TRANSPORTATION We recommend that the Secretary of Transportation re- quire FHWAto issue specific guidelines regarding safety rest areas setting forth limits on the amount of land and on the size, type, and cost of facilities and equipment that will be acceptable for Federal financial partxipation, and to establish review procedures at the national level to en- sure that such guidelines are being followed. 35 CHAF'TER4 SCOPEOF REVIEW Our review was conducted at the Washlngton, D.C., of- flee of FHWA; the FHWAreglonal and divlslon offices; and the offlces of the State agencies responsible for lmplemen- tatlon of the safety rest area program, under the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, in the States of Callfornla, Florlda, Iowa, Mlchlgan, Mlssourl, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Vermont, We reviewed pertinent leglslatlon, FHWApollcles and procedures, and FHWAand State records pertalnlng to the safety rest area program. We also discussed the program with officials of FHWAand the States that we visited. Our review included examlnatlon into the plannlng for and construction of 61 of the approximately 236 safety rest area projects constructed or authorized for construction in the eight States. We selected the 61 safety rest areas to provide samples of projects constructed to serve projected average daily traffic volumes of (1) under 10,000 vehicles, (2) between 10,000 and 25,000 vehicles, and (3) over 25,000 vehicles, because these projected average traffic volumes were the bases for certain construction criteria contained in FHWA's instructions. We selected the most recent projects constructed or under construction on interstate, primary, and secondary highways within these volumes. 36 APPENDIXES 37 APPENDIX I OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION WASHINGTON, D C 20590 ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR ADMINISTRATION December 23, 1970 Mr. Richard W. Kelley Assistant Dsrector, Clvrl Dsvlsron United States General Accounting Offsce Washington, D.C. 20548 Dear Mr. Kelley Mr. Bernard Sacks' letter of July 22 requested comments on the GAO Draft Report entxtled "Improvements Needed sn the Management of the Safety Rest Area Program. " The report contends that there 1s (1) need to improve adrmnlstratlve con- trol over the planning and locatzon of safety rest areas, (2) need to improve gusdellnes for constructing safety rest areas, and (3) need to control costs on items of equspment provided In safety rest areas. A number of guldellnes have been prepared by FHWA and AASHO on the SUbJeCt. Pr-smarlly among these are the Instructions for Highway Beautsficat,son Cost Estimate, the 1958 AASHO Policy for Safety Rest Areas, the 1968 AASHO Guide for Safety Rest Areas, and FlMA PpMxs 21-4-6, 21-17, and 80-1. This material has a scope and flexibilaty that recognszes the States* prerogative for initiative, a degree of tolerance for lndavidual State policy decisions, and some latitude for lndivadual engineerzng Judgment In each specific proJect situation. The prancipal guide has been PPM 21-17, which was developed shortly after passage of the Highway BeautlfLcatlon Act of 1965, FHWA and AASHO policy on safety rest areas has been further developed and refined in recognition of changing traffic and traveler requirements, and the need to broaden and reissue PPM 21-17 has been recognazed. The safety rest area program is relatively new, particularly on Interstate highways where there has been a generally short-time progressxve develop- ment of a series of safety rest areas along any one route. Developing experience has shown that it 1s econormcally advantageous to include a safety rest area as a part of a highway constructson project, that there is a need for larger safety rest areas than were first thought to be necessary, and that visitation and usage have been greater than was antlcspated. Some rest areas built early In the program at a relatively moderate cost are now recognized to be inadequate In size, quality, and service, and need to be updated at costs reflecting present high cost levels for labor and materials. &gh operatsng and maintenance costs have led the States to conclude that it 1s preferable to have a smaller number of large safety 39 APPENDIX I rest areas along a route than a greater number of small ones. The priority for construction of safety rest areas prlmarsly 1s governed by a State's schedule for the orderly progressson of constructson of sections of highway routes. We appreciate the concern and Interest you have shown 1-n the safety rest area program and can assure you that the GAO report ~111 be care- fully considered m further conslderatlon of the long-range crlterla for this program. While we have recognized the need to broaden and reissue PPM 21-17, the report has given us a greater awareness of thx need and for placsng greater stress on completsng this revlslon. For your further lnformatlon, we are enclosing detailed comments rela- tive to the primary flndlngs as set forth an the report. Slncerely, Enclosure Alan L Dean 40 APPENDIX I GAO DRAFT REPORT "IMPROVE!JENTS NEEDED INTHEMANAGEMEBJT OFTHE SAFETY REST AREA PROGRAM" NEEDTO IMPROVE ADMINISTRATIVE CONTROLOVER THE PLANNING AND LOCATION OF SAFETY REST AREAS The report lndscates that " . . It 1s reasonable to expect that FHWA would establish a system of priorities and control the construction of rest areas so that each State has sufflclent facllltles to provide the highway traveler with regularly spaced areas where he can stop and rest for short periods of time . . . ." The report recognizes that %aster plansV have been developed rn eight of the nine States reviewed, but that sn some instances site locations were not in consonance with the general prsnclples of locating safety rest areas away from urban areas and public or commercial establishments which could provide the traveler with safe stopping and comfort facllltles, also that most of the master plans did not show a priority In which the State's (safety rest areas would be built. The GAO report recomends that FHWA. 1. Reevaluate the States' master plans for safety rest area locations 2 Require the States to establish a priority for construction. 3. Establash a review procedure to assure that the prlorstles are followed. Guldellnes prepared by FHWA and AASHO call for safety rebt areas on freeways to be located approximately 30 to 40 mLnutes drsvmg time apart and to have TacilitLes deemed necessary for the comfort and con- venience of the traveling public. For thss purpose, master plans showing proposed locations were prepared by the States. Generally, safety rest areas on one system in a State should be developed on a priority basis. However, this may conflict with the significant economy that could be affected by including the safety rest area as a part of a highway construction proJect, In many cases, the several work Items of a safety rest area proJect, I.e., the right-of-way acqulsltlon, ramps, parking, grading, paving, buildings, utilities, and landswplng can be included In a total highway proJect with considerable sa-rlngs ln Costs Accordingly, the Statewide prlorlty deterrmnatlons for the highway proJect, not the safety rest area, should dominate. Traffic conslderatlons may 41 APPENDIX I influence priorltles. In some Instances, spacsng may be affected because the rest area facllltzes have been added to an area prlmarlly selected for Its scenic quality In other Instances, spacing may be affected by having to shift proposed sites because of topography, lack of adequate and suitable land, and improper condltlons for water, sewage disposal and other utllltles. Generally, the States' master plans are being used In substantial conforrmty wath FHWA and AASHO gusdellnes In Region 3, for example, there are 385 rest areas planned on controlled-access highways. Of these, 62 have been constructed. The remasnang 323 have a prsorlty schedule generally estab- lashed by a comblnatson of miles of highway and traffic needs. A look at the master plans for th'ls Region wall show an orderly system of development The necesszty and Justificatson for any srgnificant variations are given careful considerataon by FHWA and a State on proJect-by-proJect basis. SAFETYREST AREAS LOCATEDNEAR ORWITHlNURBANORSUBURBANAREAS OR COMMUNITIES The GAO report points out that rest areas sn four States had been located in or near urban areas, contrary to FHWA guldellnes. These guldellnes, lnstruc-tlng that rest areas be placed "at practicable and suitable distances from the outer edge of suburban and urban development,' were appropriate during the ~nltlal stages of the hsghway beautlflcatlon program, but are under study for possible modlflcatlon at the present time. There are instances where It 1s desirable to provide a rest area when approaching an urban area, usually for rest and orientation, prior to enterzng the city. In some cases, a vlsltor informataon center 1s made a part of the rest area development. Here, brochures, maps, and other material, and sometrmes trained personnel, may help a traveler. With the complexity of some urban highway systems and the confusson of several systems converging on a large city, a traveler needs and appreciates the chance to rest, read his map, and decide upon hss actions before entering the busy city traffic. In other sltuatsons, the appropriate dessrable sate or the avallabillty of a potable water or other utilltles supply may dictate the location of the rest area near or In an urban area. Further, In some States, FHWAhas concurred in a program of roadside parks whsch generally are small areas along primary or secondary routes. Some States develop these roadside parks sn small towns. This practice 1s considered to be acceptable and consrstent with the legaslatlve Intent of the highway beautlflcatlon program. SAFETY REST AREAS CONSTRUCTEDNEAR PUBLIC OR COMMERCIALFACILITIES MADE AVAILABLF BY OTHER THAN THE STATE HIGHWAY DEPARTMEXC The report lmplles that whenever there are developments along a highway or at an Interchange, such as public parks, gasoline statrons, restaurants, motels, and so forth, safety rest areas are to be located elsewhere. The 42 APPENDIX I FHWA policy which encouraged this positson, although suitable In 1966 when Interstate rest areas were few and far between, 1s under consideration for change. We belleve that It 1s nexther antended proper nor safe to require a highway traveler to leave the Interstate, for example, and fznd a roads&e bussness to provide him with comfort facsllties. It is not fa1.r to the operator of the business. Seldom does a driver's or a family's need for a comfort stop coLn.clde with a vehscle's need for fuel. An out-of-the-way corner of a gasoline station or the parking area of a motel 1s not a proper or desirable place for a driver to park and stay for rest, relaxatson, or p~cmcking. Many businesses would not have the facilltles for parksng and comfort to aCCODXnOdate more than Just a few Of the great mass of Interstate users at any given tsme. Public park areas may have facslltses adequate for a sizable number of highway travelers, but may not perrmt trucks or tractor- trailers to enter the area, A number of publsc parks charge a fee to enter the area. FLnally, 1.f safety rest areas were not allowed where comfort and convenience facllrtles were to be found near cltles or at service facllltles on cross- roads wath Interchange connectzons, many routes in the Nation never would be el1glble for a rest area, partscularly on the Interstate System. In the East partacularly, snterchanges are located at farrly frequent sntervals, even In rural areas, and there are business establishments at practically every znterchange SAFETY REST AREAS CONSTRUCTEDAT LOCATIONS WHICH ENCOURAGE LONG-TERM STOPPING FOR RECREATIONAL PURPOSES The GAO report points out that rest areas have been constructed at locations whxch encourage long-term stopping for recreational purposes. The report quotes PPM 21-17, which states, "Safety rest areas are not provaded for overnsght campsng or active recreation , , . .' Agarn, the report cites an FHWA guide which has been In the process of change. Section 319(b) of Title 23, USC, enacted as part of the mghway Beautsficatlon Act of 1965, provLdes that highway beautiflcatlon funds may be used for the ". . . acqulsitlon and development of publicly owned and controlled rest and recreation areas . . . ." This provision of the law relatrng to recreation is reflected in a Circular Memorandum forwarded to the field and the States on February 1, 1968. This said in part "At some locations the rest area rmght include adJacent lands for recreational purposes. In this manner the facIlltles . . . would serve both the motors& that would make a short stop and also those that wished to stop for several hours and enJoy some active recreatLon." Thss policy, whsch has been followed for the past several years, 1s con- slstent with the provaslons of Federal law as set out in Section 319(b). 43 APPENDIX I In summary, we see no need for a speclflc reevaluatson of the States' master plans. Each safety rest area 3s considered 3n the light of ats consonance with the State's overall needs when s-t 1s subrmtted for proJect approval. Its prlorlty 1s evaluated at that tame. Like- wise, FHWA's regular review procedures, which are well known to GAO, appear adequate to assure compliance with established polscles. We do agree with GAO that, wherevex possible, consastent wath other con- strasnts mentsoned above, prlorsty should be given to rest area construction along stretches of highway presently wsthout adequate stopping facllltles, and we wiLl contmnue to stress this sn our admsnlstratlon of the program NJXEDTO PROVIDE GUIDELINES FOR CONSTRUCTING SAFEZY REST AREA3 The report suggests that there 3s a '. . . need for increased atinls- tratlve guidance and control by Fi3WAto provsde more assurance that the llmlted amount of funds avaslable sn this program are used more efflcaently and that the facslltles constructed serve the needs of the highway traveler ln a unlfolm and consistent manner", that this need J-S brought on '. . because FHWA has not provsded the States with adequate guuldellnes as to acceptable sizes and costs for safety rest area development and has not exercised sufflclent control over the States' plans for constructing these facllltles." The GAO report recommends that FHWA 1. Develop more specsfrc 1lmlt.s on the type, amount, and cost of rest area faczlltles and the amount of land to be acquired. 2. Develop appropriate controls at the natsonal level to assure that the guldellnes are being followed. Durrng the short time that the Interstate safety rest area program has been In progress, much knowledge has been gained by FHWA and the States regarding hsgkway traffic and traffic volumes, travelers' needs and Incllnatlons, and the effect these have on safety rest area sizes and costs FHWA has been aware of the variations Sn range of sizes and costs during this early "growing" period. Guidelines first promulgated by FHWA and the States, antlclpating a growing and changing program, were written with considerable flexlbsllty and latrtude. On any gsven route within a State or between States, safety rest areas, of necessity, will. vary in acreage. For instance, land needed for parking areas may vary with the design year and forecast ADT, the class of vehicle (truck and passenger car), the type of traffic (bussness and recreational), a State's prerogative to build a full facility inrtially or by stages, and the avallabllity of land because of terrain (mountainous, rollrng, and flat). Land needed and suitable for bulldings and utilltres 44 APPENDIX I may vary because of topography and geology (for sltlng, potable water supply and sewage disposal). Land In excess of actual physical needs may be acquired because of the benefits, economcally and from tnaln- tenance and operations vlewpomnts, of having full parcels rather than several remnants, Land may be acquired to serve as a screen or lnsulataon for safety rest areas or to preserve, protect or &splay some outstanding scenic resource. A number of safety rest areas built early sn the program,ln accordance wsth FHWA and AASHO guldellnes promulgated at that time, have proven to be inadequate and undersized In land and facllltles. It 1s costly to redevelop them to meet the new levels of traffsc and use. Rest areas recently or currently being built are more closely meeting exist- lng and prOJeCted needs and requirements. Guldellnes currently ln use were written to permit greater flexibslity, latitude and JUdgment by FRWA and the States. Generally, within any given State, safety rest area bulldlngs may vary In size because of design year, ADT and other factors, but wsll be compatible Ln architectural style, materzals, and quality Since 1966, there have been FRWA guidelines relative to the maximum 1lmLtatlons of comfort statson facilitLes. Lobby size has been based on the number of sanitary facllltres within the bullding In keepsng with the guldellnes, some States prefer a mlnlmum approach to building design and do not include a lobby, while others provide a lobby. A number of States are provldlng welcome centers at State entrances. Some are being built on the primary approaches to large metropolitan areas or areas having slgniflcant hlstorlc, scenic, or other values. These welcome centers may be separate developments or may be combined with comfort stations in safety rest areas. A number of them have large lobbies and trained personnel to dispense informatzon. Lsats of Federal-aid participation in welcome centers are deterrmned by existing guidelines and generally go only to the 1amLts pernntted for a normal safety rest area. The additional costs are financed by funds from other sources. The Federal-aid program is a partnership between the Federal and State Governments. The State has the right of initiative on a pr0Jec-t. For this reason, we belleve that the States have the right, within reason, to determsne the character and quality of the bulldings they propose to construct. Some States express their hLstorlca1 herztage by way of the visual impact of their bulldings, others provsde the simplest of comfort facllitles. We have encouraged upgrading where we have felt that a State's design was too frugal and austere, and we have asked for restrasnt where we have felt that a design was too elaborate and costly, but, within a reasonably wide range, we have respected the State's right of initiative We shall continue to inform and advise the States of up-to-date construction techniques and materials which would have an effect on the design and cost Of structures. 45 APPENDIX I In summary, we will continue surveillance of the design of these facllltles, 1ncludLng locatson and land acqulsltlon, In order to be certain that Federal funds are properly and wisely spent. LlkewLse, In revlslng PPM 21-17, we wrll consader the advxsablllty of specsfxc guidelines along the lines recommended by GAO. NEED TO CONTROL COSTS ON ITESIS OF EQUIPMENT PROVIDED IN SA,FEX!YREST AREAS The report states that '. . . costs for certaan bassc stems of equipment generally found In safety rest areas--plcnXc tables, refuse containers and bulletin boards--vary widely from State to State." It adrmts that varlatlons are to be expected ln a program that spans the continent, but that I). the extent of the varlatlons, with regard to the quality and type of equipment, lndlcates a need for FHWA to establish upper llrmts on the cost of these items. . ' Further, the report Judges that some States Me . provsde custom ieslgned equipment apparently chosen more for Its aesthetsc value than Its functLona1 value." The GAO report recommends that FHWA 1, Provxde the States with more speclflc guldellnes as to the tries and quality of rest area equipment. 2 Establish cost llm1tatlons for items of equipment. We are very much aware of varlatlons In the cost of certain equipment found sn safety rest areas These varlatlons, across the country, are not unexpected and not necessarily unreasonable. They are brought about, In part, by such economic and marketang factors as supply and demand, labor and materials, transportatson, and the controls sometxmes placed by Government and labor organlzatsons on materials, labor and products. Because these factors vary so much and change so often with the local or national economy, we belleve that placing any dollar cost llmst on atems of basic equipment would be arbstrary and dlfflcult to adrmnsster. Lske- wrse, purpose and design will vary between Items ostensibly having a similar function We know of no single instance where basic equspment 1s not serving the function for which It was procured and provsded. Form follows function. The shape, size, materrals and appearance of such Items as plcnlc tables, refuse containers, bulletin boards, and shelters are basic factors In a fully design-sntegrated system of consistently high quality, considered desirable by most States. A few States prefer to dessgn for each location. Early rest areas could and did contaan mlnlmum gravel parking, pit toslets, pump-handle water supplies, oil drum trash cans and the simplest of picnic tables and benches. Today, the traveling public demands better than these. In our present society, environmental condltlons are becoming lncreaslngly important and the States generally wash to provide the very best for "State advertlslng V Furthermore, the great volume and hLgh lntenslty of 46 APPENDIX I use ln most rest areas requsres the provision of great capacity and high-quality facllltles lf they are to serve adequately over a reasonable span of time. In support of those States that are providing more custormzed rest area equipment, a dxtinctron should be recognxed between the cheap-dollar, lowest first-cost, hagh maintenance p~cnac table, trash can, bulletIn board or other installatron and those that cost more Lnitlally but are much more resistant to wear, defacement or other vandalism, or outrsght theft, and are less costly to maxntaln. The environment of a safety rest area differs from that of most publxc outdoor recreational areas. Generally, a rest area is relatively small, compact and highly developed, serving many travelers for a relatively short span of time per person. Public parks generally are large and are used less xttensively for longer periods of time for a different purpose. Park facllltles and equxpment, If appropriate, reflect the character and purposes of the park. They would most lrkely be unsuited zn character and quality for safety rest area purposes. In summary, we ~111 continue to fUrnlsh information and guidance to the States on the design and purchase of rest area equipment in order to be certain that Federal funds are properly spent. We do not believe it proper to establish specific cost lutvtatlons for equipment. 47 APPENDIX II OFFICIALS OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBLEFOR THE ADMINISTRATION OF ACTIVITIES DISCUSSEDIN THIS REPORT Tenure of office From SECRETARYOF TRANSPORTATION (note a): John A. Volpe Jan. 1969 Present * Alan S. Boyd Jan. 1967 Jan. 1969 SECRETARYOF COMMERCE(note b): Alexander B. Trowbridge (acting) Jan. 1967 Mar. 1967 John T. Connor Jan. 1965 Jan. 1967 FEDERALHIGHWAYADMINISTRATOR (note a): Francis C. Turner Mar. 1969 Present Lowell K. Bridwell Apr. 1967 Jan. 1969 DIRECTOROF PUBLIC ROADS(note c): Ralph R. Bartelsmeyer &Y 1969 Present Francis C. Turner I Jan.. 1967 Mar. 1969 Rex M. Whitton Feb. 1961 Dec. 1966 HIGHWAYBEkTIFICATION COORDINATOR (note d): ‘) George F. McInturff iacting) June 1969 Aug. 1970 Fred S. Farr Feb. 1967 %Y 1969 aPosition created by the Department of Transportation Act (Pub. L. 89-670). bAll functions, powers, and duties of the Secretary 0s Com- merce under certain laws and provisions of law related gen- erally to highways were transferred to and vested in the Secretary of Transportation by the Department of Transpor- tation Act. . APPENDIX II 'Title changed in April 1967 from Federal Highway Administra- tor, Department of Commerce; position abolished by reorga- nization of FHWAeffective August 6, 1970. Duties trans- ferred to four associate administrators. dPosition abolished by reorganization of FHWAeffective August 6, 1970; duties transferred to the Scenic Enhance- ment Division, Office of Environmental Policy, FHWA. ‘U S GAO Wash , D C 49
Improvements Needed in Management of Highway Safety Rest Area Program
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1971-06-02.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)