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Be cautious of rest stop upgrade costs

Ohioans may wonder a bit about the state’s attempts to better market itself to travelers — more than one online commenter believed the childlike “Ohio: Find it here” signs installed about a year ago were a joke — but the folks in Columbus seem to be truly working on making a better impression.

To that end, Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks says Gov. Mike DeWine wants to improve the Buckeye State’s highway rest areas.

“Our rest areas should not just be places where people go take care of biological necessities — they should be really places where we promote all that’s good about Ohio,” Marchbanks said.

DeWine has said the rest areas are in a “sorry” state, though three of them saw renovations completed early this year, and there are plans to rebuild four more. Still, that’s seven out of 84. Finishing just three of them cost a total of $15 million.

Meanwhile, DeWine’s vision reportedly includes lodge- or chalet-style buildings with well-lit parking areas, dog parks, flat-screen TVs displaying weather conditions, kiosks highlighting great Ohioans and speakers playing a soundtrack of songs by Ohio musicians.

According to the Associated Press, the cost to taxpayers for carrying out such a vision is unclear. Certainly, designers could find a way to make it cost $400 million or $500 million, at least.

A working group has been formed to tackle the project. They will have to think very hard about making a good impression with travelers in a way that does not place too much burden on Ohio taxpayers — and whether it is worth spending that kind of money on the journey, when the vast majority of travelers really do stop at rest areas just long enough to take care of those biological necessities because they are in a hurry to get to their destinations.

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