Many states closing rest areas, but Texas building new ones

SALADO — Long-distance truckers Jan and Jim McCarter drive all over the continental United States, and when they need a break from the grind of the road, they aim for Texas.

Even as other states are shutting down highway rest areas to cut expenses, Texas is pressing ahead with a $262 million program to build or overhaul several dozen roadside stops.

"The Texas rest areas are the absolute best in the entire country," Jan McCarter said during a stop last week at an Interstate 35 rest area in Salado, north of Austin. As she spoke, she walked her lap dog, Rocky, on a vast lawn at the rest area, which was built for $10 million and opened a little more than a year ago.

"They have free Wi-Fi," she said. "They're extremely clean. They're well kept up. They're just beautiful and they have security also."

The Salado rest area, which was paid for mostly with a federal transportation enhancement grant, features two children's play areas, state-of-the-art vending machines, a storm shelter and sparkling, spacious restrooms that are cleaned around the clock.

The parking lot can hold dozens of cars and more than 40 tractor-trailers — and regulars say that in the evenings it's not uncommon to find just about every parking spot occupied.

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