Rest Areas and Public-Private Partnerships (P3s)
Why were these two specific rest areas chosen?
The new federal highway authorization bill, MAP-21, gives states greater flexibility to use innovative techniques to manage and fund rest areas that are located along the interstate highway system. These two rest areas already had been identified as locations requiring additional review by MDOT due to their proximity to other rest areas, low usage and poor condition.
What type of usage does the department expect a private entity to propose?
MDOT is looking to start a conversation with private industry to determine if alternate uses are available for these rest areas that would benefit both the traveling public and MDOT. No specific types of usage are being targeted.
What types of services will be provided at these rest areas?
That's unknown and is one of the objectives of the requests for letters of interest. It's anticipated, however, that any P3 project would provide enhanced facilities and services to the public beyond what's currently available.
What will happen if no private entities express interest in the rest areas?
If there's no interest expressed in managing or operating the rest areas, MDOT intends to permanently close the Higgins Lake rest area on southbound US-127 later this year. The Houghton Lake rest area on northbound US-127 will remain open; however, MDOT will continue to monitor its usage, condition, and operational and capital costs to determine long-term plans for the facility. Prior to making these decisions, though, it's important for MDOT to examine opportunities for alternate uses of the existing rest areas.
Would MDOT consider expanding this opportunity to other rest areas?
Where allowed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and based on the interest and results from these pilot projects, MDOT would examine the use of its other rest areas.