Closed rest areas becoming an inconvenience, safety hazard

By Kelly McCarthy

November 6, 2013 Updated Nov 6, 2013 at 7:27 PM EDT

Unadilla, NY (WBNG Binghamton) New York State rest areas have been getting some attention with Governor Cuomo's "It Can Wait" initiative. Signs now promote rest areas as "text stops," but what if the rest area is closed?

Rest areas in New York State are advertising their parking lots as "text stops" for drivers. But six New York State rest areas were closed in 2010 due to budget cuts.

Assemblyman Clifford Crouch is pressuring Governor Cuomo to make funding available to re-open the rest areas.

"I think the state has a responsibility to provide facilities for safe travel," said (R) NYS 122nd Assembly Clifford Crouch, "Obviously the rest stops are a key part of that."

Two of the six closed rest stops in New York state are right along Interstate 88. Some drivers are taking the closures into their own hands.

"You get going along and you count on it, it's on the map, you count on it being there and it's just not there," said a traveling family from Vermont, "We stopped here to find out where the noise was because after we left Cobleskill we still got the noise, and I had to pull off somewhere to do it. We were counting on the rest area but it was closed."

People traveling along I-88 Wednesday said closed rest stops have become a safety issue.

"It's risky for drivers to drive when they're drowsy when it really is," said Carly Wadworth, a truck driver from Nevada, "I mean sometimes I have to say, 'we need to stop and get a coffee,' and he says 'the next one's two hours away,' so there's nothing we can do."

With the two closed rest areas on I-88, people could wait up to 100 miles before they have a chance to get off the road. It also means fewer opportunities to be able to safely stop and text.

"Well I think it's ironic that we're promoting using rest stops to be safe texting but we've got six of them closed across the state," Crouch said.

"As the mom of two new drivers," said Wendy Bakal of Ithaca, "I don't think the kids always think about that, and this will get them to think about it, you can't pull over on the highway safely on the shoulder."

Assemblyman Crouch is encouraging Governor Cuomo to make the funding available in next year's 2014-2015 fiscal budget.