Rest Areas: Construction and Evolution

The nation’s Rest Areas offer an oasis for weary travelers. Rest Areas came about during America’s age of mobility; Baby Boomers cruised Route 66 in search of the Western frontier. Although many Rest Areas possess a deep history, they’ve become a modern haven for the road weary, construction practices and amenities have evolved along with the highway.

The originally paved highways, bumpy ribbons across the American landscape, were constructed during the 1950’s. Upon completion, the highways required Rest Areas to mobilize the masses and Rest Areas made interstate travel a possibility: it wouldn’t have been possible for travelers make the slow and difficult interstate trek without the amenities Rest Areas provided. Automobiles were slow and interstates didn’t offer easy access to restrooms, lodging, and food. The Rest Area provided a much-needed break from the road and minimal necessities.

Quirky architecture and durability weren’t characteristics of the first Rest Areas. Construction of the first Rest Areas was modeled after roadside parks but provided minimal amenities such as a toilet, drinking water, and picnic grounds. However, restareahistory.org states that uniquely whimsical design elements and culturally significant attributes became integral elements of Rest Area design during the mid-1960’s. During this era, yurts, Native American Round Houses and miniature reproductions of culturally significant artifacts sprang up all over the country.

Currently, Rest Areas are constructed to be aesthetically appealing and rich in amenities. Yet, travelers often forget to utilize the variety of amenities Rest Areas offer. According to Florida’s Department of Transportation (FDOT), each Rest Area offers wifi, a Welcome Center and twenty-four hour assistance. Moreover, most provide ADA compliant restrooms, payphones, and grills.

It’s paramount to research Rest Areas along your route, each state offers unique amenities, for example, Florida offers motorists traffic reports via dialing 511. Additionally, rules on camping and use of grills vary from state to state. Due to modern construction techniques, Rest Areas are now a place tourists would like to visit. Many are constructed with masoned stone exteriors and possess spacious bathrooms, or have a quirky appeal.

While traveling America’s open roads, don’t forget to consider the many qualities of design that go into both the highway and Rest Stop. Both entities are laced into the fabric of our way of life, they’ve grown with us and have evolved with construction technologies and culture.

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