Signs have gone up on Interstate 84 in Willington, announcing the closing of the Connecticut Welcome Center westbound and the state rest area eastbound, effective July 1. The closings, along with the closings next fiscal year of five other rest stops, are part of the recently-passed two-year budget.
Department of Transportation spokesman Judd Everhart says closing the Willington stop will save $400,000 in the next year. After the Southington and Danbury stops on I-84, the Middletown and Wallingford stops on I-91 and the North Stonington stop on I-95 are closed next fiscal year, the state projects an annual savings of $1.3 million dollars, plus a savings of $14 million in capital costs.
President Mike Riley of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, which represents the trucking industry, says the closings could become a safety issue, “Where are we going to let our drivers rest?” Riley says studies have shown that drivers currently fill every available overnight parking spot in public and private areas on any given weeknight, and would use 1,200 more if they were available.
Everhart says, for now, entrances to the Willington rest stop will be blocked off, but the building will not be torn down and the state will not sell the property. He says if the state’s fiscal position were to turn around, the matter could be revisited, but says there are no current plans for that. He says the five DOT staff members who work at the Willington facilities have accepted positions that are currently vacant in other state agencies.