Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

April 18, 2012

TxDOT cuts ribbon on rest stop

New roadside stops combine beauty and brains

By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — Beautiful and environmentally friendly, the new rest stops on Interstate 45 are now officially open, although they’ve been open in reality for four or five months now.

On Tuesday, the Texas Department of Transportation hosted a ribbon cutting at the north-bound rest stop, featuring TxDOT Area Engineer Darwin Myers, Texas Rep. Byron Cook, Navarro County Judge H.M. Davenport, and Precinct 3 commissioner David Warren and TxDOT Maintenance Division Director of Contracts Andy Keith out of the Austin office.

Myers told a tale on himself that when the proposal for doing the rest stops came up he was asked if the money couldn’t be diverted to Houston, and Myers agreed, only to be chastised for “giving away” money that would go to Navarro County.

In the end, the money did come to Navarro, $14.7 million, of which $12 million came from federal stimulus funds, otherwise known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Andy Keith, director of maintenance contracts for TxDOT, spoke of the necessity of good rest stops on highways, citing the 286 fatalities on Texas highways in 2006 caused directly by fatigue-related accidents.

“To me, it’s a big deal to save even one life,” Keith said.

“I wish it didn’t cost so much but it’s money well-spent,” Keith said. “It’s for a good cause. It’s also a chance to showcase Navarro County.”

The rest stop effort began in 2001, as the state was trying to find the funding to improve rest stops. Most rest stops at the time were open-air affairs, with a few picnic tables and non air-conditioned bathrooms and a few caged-in vending machines. This new rest stop in southern Navarro County is the antithesis of those, with high-tech playgrounds, native plants, walking trails, beautiful facilities with art and history displays, even flat-screen TV monitors showing the parking lots, so people can keep an eye on their vehicles while inside. Banks of vending machines offer a variety of snacks, and there are tables and places to sit both inside and out.

A section of Richland Creek runs through the facility, and in keeping with the delicacy of the environment and the proximity to Richland Chambers Reservoir, the wastewater is recycled within the facility so there’s no run-off into the lake.

The north-bound rest stop has a scaled-down oil derrick in the foyer, below which are displays explaining Navarro County’s oil history, along with displays about local plants, and even one on Bigfoot.

Having pleasant destination rest stops encourages people to stop who otherwise might try to power through on their trips between the far-flung metropolitan areas. Navarro County’s stop was planned as a good stopping point between major cities.

“TxDOT hopes this facility will save a lot of lives and make our highways safer,” Keith said.

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at jacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com