WASHINGTON (April 6, 2017) – Limitations on commercial activity at federal highway rest stops have rendered them dreary and unappealing. Meanwhile, electric vehicles have been hampered by a lack of infrastructure, like widespread charging stations. In a new policy short, R Street Energy Policy Director Josiah Neeley ties these two issues together, proposing to lift limits on commercial activities at rest stops that install charging stations.

“Congress has a real opportunity to help modernize the nation’s transportation infrastructure,” Neeley said. “Current restrictions serve little purpose other than to make those stops dreary and uninviting places. A new approach is needed; one that melds aesthetic sensibility and utility with emissions-reduction benefits.”

The restriction on commercial activity originally was included in the 1950s law creating the Interstate Highway System as a way to limit competition with commercial centers in small towns along interstate highway routes. But after nearly 70 years of changing population patterns, coupled with current environmental concerns, any legitimacy the policy might once have had is long gone. As a bonus incentives, states could earn credit under the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards for the emissions reductions that stem from taking higher-emitting gasoline-powered vehicles off the road.

“Sometimes, several policy changes make more sense in combination than they would in isolation,” Neeley wrote. “By tying these policies together, states have the oppor­tunity to remove barriers to emerging technologies, reduce emissions and encourage economic development.”


R Street is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization whose mission is to promote free markets and limited, effective government. It has headquarters in Washington, D.C. and five regional offices across the country. Its website is www.rstreet.org.

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