[Federal Register Volume 71, Number 38 (Monday, February 27, 2006)]
[Pages 9855-9857]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E6-2682]



Federal Highway Administration

[FHWA Docket No. FHWA-2006-23550]

Interstate Oasis Program

AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice; request for comments.


SUMMARY: The FHWA is soliciting comments on a proposed Interstate Oasis 
program. Specifically, section 1310 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, 
Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (``SAFETEA-
LU'', Pub. L. 109-59, enacted August 10, 2005), requires the Secretary 
of Transportation to develop standards for designating certain 
facilities as Interstate Oases and to design a uniform logo for such 
designated facilities. The FHWA has developed a preliminary framework 
for an Interstate Oasis program and is seeking public comments in order 
to refine and finalize the program.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before April 28, 2006.

ADDRESSES: Mail or hand deliver comments to the U.S. Department of 
Transportation, Dockets Management Facility, Room PL-401, 400 Seventh 
Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590-0001, or submit electronically at 
http://dms.dot.gov/submit, or fax comments to (202) 493-2251. All 
comments should include the docket number that appears in the heading 
of this document. All comments received will be available for 
examination and copying at the above address from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 
e.t., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. Those desiring 
notification of receipt of comments must include a self-addressed, 
stamped postcard or you may print the acknowledgement page that appears 
after submitting comments electronically. Anyone is able to search the 
electronic form of all comments received into any of our dockets by the 
name of the individual submitting the comments (or signing the comment, 
if submitted on behalf of an association, business, labor union, etc.). 
You may review DOT's complete Privacy Act Statement in the Federal 
Register published on April 11, 2000, (Volume 65, Number 70, Pages 
19477-78) or you may visit http://dms.dot.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Hari Kalla, (202) 366-5915, Office 
of Transportation Operations, HOTO, or Mr. Robert Black, Office of the 
Chief Counsel, HCC-30, (202) 366-1359. Office hours are from 7:45 a.m. 
to 4:15 p.m., e.t., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.


Electronic Access and Filing

    You may submit or retrieve comments online through the Document 
Management System (DMS) at: http://dms.dot.gov/submit. The DMS is 
available 24 hours each day, 365 days each year. Electronic submission 
and retrieval help and guidelines are available under the help section 
of the Web site.
    An electronic copy of this document may also be downloaded from the 
Office of the Federal Register's home page at: http://www.archives.gov 
and the Government Printing Office's Web page at: http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara.


    In response to a provision in the Joint Explanatory Statement of 
the Committee of Conference (House Report 106-355) that accompanied the 
Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 
2000 (Pub. L. 106-69, 113 Stat. 986), the FHWA has been in the process 
of investigating a number of issues relating to rest areas on the 
Interstate System. Of particular concern is that States are considering 
closing or privatizing rest areas on Interstate highways because of the 
costs of maintenance and operation, security issues, and potential 
liability. Insufficient truck parking has also been found to be a 
significant problem in some States at rest areas on the Interstate 
system, on local road systems near interchanges with Interstate 
highways, and at adjoining businesses. Commercialization of existing 
Interstate highway public rest areas to allow private firms to provide 
services such as those found in ``service plazas'' on many toll roads 
and turnpikes, in exchange for private responsibility for maintenance 
and operation of the rest areas, has been advocated by some States and 
by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation 
Officials (AASHTO). However, such commercialization is not authorized 
by current laws and regulations and is strongly opposed by business 
interests located off the Interstate system.
    The designation of certain privately owned facilities off the 
Interstate system, such as commercial truck stops, under public-private 
partnership agreements, has been identified as a potential alternative 
to address road user needs in lieu of commercialization of Interstate 
rest areas and as a possible way to provide motorist services as well 
as help address shortages of truck parking. Such private facilities 
would be required to meet certain minimum standards and signing would 
be provided on the highway to lead road users to these facilities. The 
FHWA has identified two States, Utah and Vermont, that have programs in 
operation for designation of and signing to such off-Interstate 
facilities, and a third State, Louisiana, that has developed the 
framework for such a program but has not implemented it.
    In August 2005, SAFETEA-LU was enacted. Section 1310 of SAFETEA-LU, 
entitled ``Interstate Oasis Program'', requires FHWA to establish an 
Interstate Oasis program and, after providing an opportunity for public 
comment, develop standards for designating as an Interstate Oasis a 
facility that, as a minimum, offers products and services

[[Page 9856]]

to the public, 24-hour access to restrooms, and parking for automobiles 
and heavy trucks. Section 1310 also requires the standards for 
designation as an Interstate Oasis to include the ``appearance of a 
facility'' and the proximity of the facility to the Interstate system, 
and requires FHWA to design a logo to be displayed by a designated 
Interstate Oasis facility. Further, section 1310 requires that, if a 
State elects to participate in the Interstate Oasis program, any 
facility meeting the standards for designation shall be eligible for 
designation as an Interstate Oasis.
    A related provision of SAFETEA-LU, section 1305, authorized a 
separate program to provide Federal funding for building, expanding, or 
improving truck parking facilities along the National Highway System. 
The FHWA plans to issue a separate notice in the Federal Register to 
announce this program and solicit applications for use of the available 
funding. The FHWA will closely coordinate the section 1305 and section 
1310 programs to assure they are compatible and complementary to each 
other in serving the public need.

Description of Proposed Interstate Oasis Program

    The FHWA has developed a preliminary framework for an Interstate 
Oasis program that FHWA believes is responsive to the requirements in 
section 1310 of SAFETEA-LU. Figures will be developed and sign numbers 
will be designated at a later date to illustrate certain signing 
elements after they are finalized. Therefore, figure numbers included 
in the draft text of the program document are left blank at this time, 
and sign numbers are general and not specific. The draft text of the 
program document is as follows:
    ``An Interstate Oasis shall be defined as a facility near an 
Interstate highway, but not within the Interstate right-of-way, 
designated by a State after meeting certain eligibility criteria, that 
provides products and services to the public, 24-hour access to public 
restrooms, and parking for automobiles and heavy trucks.
    Interstate Oasis facilities shall comply with laws concerning:
    1. The provisions of public accommodations without regard to race, 
religion, color, age, sex, national origin, or disability; and
    2. The State and local licensing and approval of such service 
    If a State elects to provide Interstate Oasis signing, there should 
be a statewide policy, program, procedures, and criteria for the 
designation and signing of a facility as an Interstate Oasis. To 
qualify for designation and signing as an Interstate Oasis, a business 
should, at a minimum:
    1. Be located no more than 3 miles from an interchange with an 
Interstate highway, except a lesser distance may be required when State 
laws restrict truck travel to lesser distances from the Interstate 
    2. As determined by an engineering study, be accessible via 
highways that are unrestricted as to vehicle weight or vehicle type, 
size, or weight and from which road users can safely and conveniently 
travel to the facility, enter and leave the facility, return to the 
Interstate highway, and continue in the same direction of travel;
    3. As determined by an engineering study, have physical geometry of 
site layout and driveway access to safely and efficiently accommodate 
ingress, on-site travel, maneuvering, and parking, and egress by all 
vehicles, including heavy trucks of the size and weight anticipated to 
use the facility;
    4. Have modern sanitary facilities (rest rooms) and drinking water, 
available to the public at no charge or obligation at all times (24 
hours per day, 365 days per year);
    5. Have adequate and well lit parking accommodations for vehicles, 
including heavy trucks, with maximum allowed parking duration not less 
than 10 hours, to meet demands based on volumes, the percentage of 
heavy vehicles in the Interstate highway traffic, and other pertinent 
    6. Be staffed by at least one person on duty at all times (24 hours 
per day, 365 days per year); and
    7. Provide, at a minimum, the following products and services:
    a. Public telephone;
    b. Food (vending, snacks, fast food, and/or full service); and
    c. Fuel, oil, and water for automobiles and trucks.
    Statewide criteria may impose additional minimum requirements, 
beyond those listed above, determined necessary by the State to promote 
and enhance road user safety, efficiency, and productivity. If a State 
elects to provide Interstate Oasis signing, any facility meeting the 
State's minimum criteria shall be eligible for designation as an 
Interstate Oasis.
    Signing to denote the availability of an Interstate Oasis at an 
interchange, to guide road users to an Interstate Oasis, or to 
designate a business as an Interstate Oasis should incorporate the 
Interstate Oasis symbol depicted in Figure ``X''. [Figure to be 
developed and numbered later.]
    States electing to provide Interstate Oasis signing should use only 
one of the following signing practices on the freeway for any given 
    1. If Specific Service signing (See MUTCD Chapter 2F) is provided 
at the interchange, a 12-inch diameter circular ``patch'' containing 
the Interstate Oasis symbol may be located in the lower right-hand 
corner of the specific service logo panel for the designated business 
in a manner in which it touches both the specific service logo and the 
blue sign panel; or
    2. If General Service signing (See MUTCD Figures 2E-41 and 2E-42) 
is provided at the interchange, the Interstate Oasis General Service 
Sign (D9-x) may be included on or appended above or below an existing 
D9-18, D9-18a, or D9-18e General Service sign; or
    3. If no other service signing is provided at the interchange, the 
Interstate Oasis General Service Sign (D9-x) may be appended above or 
below an existing ground mounted Advance Guide or Exit Direction sign, 
or a separate D9-y sign, incorporating both the Interstate Oasis symbol 
and the legend ``Interstate Oasis'' may be installed in an effective 
location, between the Advance Guide sign and the Exit Direction sign 
and with adequate spacing from other adjacent signs, in advance of the 
exit leading to the Oasis. The D9-y sign shall have a blue background 
and white border and legend and shall contain an action message such as 
``NEXT EXIT'' for unnumbered interchanges or, for numbered 
interchanges, the exit number as illustrated in Figure ``Y''. [Figure 
to be developed and numbered later.]
    Signing should be provided near the exit ramp terminal and along 
the cross road to guide road users from the interchange to the 
Interstate Oasis and back to the interchange.''

Discussion of Proposed Interstate Oasis Program

    The FHWA believes that the draft text stated above meets the intent 
and the specific requirements of section 1310 of SAFETEA-LU and 
enhances the safety, efficiency, and productivity of the highway system 
and its users. It would establish minimum criteria meeting the needs of 
travelers on the Interstate highway system in a manner that any State 
could implement despite wide varieties in existing conditions and needs 
from State to State. Similar to criteria for businesses to be eligible 
for Specific Services signing, detailed in Chapter 2F of the Manual on 
Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), States could decide to impose 
additional criteria, beyond the minimum national criteria, that they 
deem appropriate for their State.

[[Page 9857]]

    Section 1310 specifically states that the standards for designation 
of an Interstate Oasis shall include standards relating to ``the 
appearance of a facility.'' The FHWA does not believe that it is 
feasible to prescribe uniform nationwide standards for facility 
appearance, in terms of building design, site layout, or other 
potential elements of appearance. The FHWA believes that the minimum 
eligibility criteria, plus the use of a standard nationwide Interstate 
Oasis symbol (logo) on official traffic signs and on private business 
signing of designated facilities, will meet the intent of assuring that 
travelers can readily identify the specific locations of facilities 
meeting the required criteria.
    The proposed Interstate highway signing requirements for exits 
providing access to an Interstate Oasis generally follow the principles 
of General Services and Specific Services signing, as established in 
Part 2 of the MUTCD, and the FHWA's Interim Approval dated September 6, 
2005, for use of ``RV Friendly'' symbol ``patches'' on Specific 
Services signs. The complete MUTCD and FHWA's September 6, 2005, 
Interim Approval can be accessed at FHWA's MUTCD Web site at http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov. Proposed sign numbers and figure numbers in the 
draft text are indeterminate at this time and will be finalized in the 
completed document.

Specific Questions on Which FHWA Is Seeking Comments

    The FHWA is requesting comments on this proposed Interstate Oasis 
program as described above. The FHWA is also seeking comments and input 
regarding several specific questions to help refine and finalize the 
    1. Is 3 miles an appropriate maximum distance from the interchange? 
The maximum distance specified in MUTCD Section 2F.01 for specific 
services is 3 miles. If the concept of identifying an Interstate Oasis 
by adding a ``patch'' to the Specific Service logo panel is used, 
consistency in the distance policies may be needed. States would have 
the flexibility to require a closer distance in their State policies, 
especially if a State's laws limit certain trucks to a lesser distance 
when traveling off the Interstate system. However, in some sparsely 
populated areas, it may be difficult to find any facilities within 3 
miles that would qualify as an Interstate Oasis along very long 
sections of Interstate highways. Should States have the flexibility to 
extend the 3-mile maximum (as they can do for existing Specific 
Services) in cases such as this?
    2. Should the criteria for safe and convenient access to and from a 
potential Interstate Oasis facility, and for adequate on-site geometry, 
be more specific, or is it sufficient to require the States to perform 
an engineering study to make these determinations?
    3. Should the minimum national criteria require a specific minimum 
number of parking spaces for cars and/or heavy trucks, or a specific 
minimum percentage of total spaces that must be designed for use by 
heavy trucks? If so, what should those numbers be and on what basis or 
rationale are they recommended?
    4. Are there other products and services beyond those listed that 
are essential for inclusion in the minimum national criteria for 
designation as an Interstate Oasis? States will have the flexibility to 
add their own requirements for products and/or services beyond the 
national minimums. However, States will not have the ability to waive 
any required products or services contained in the minimum national 
    5. Should States have the flexibility to designate and sign an exit 
for an Interstate Oasis if all the criteria cannot be met by any one 
business at the exit, but the combination of two or more businesses in 
close proximity to each other do meet the criteria? For example, one 
particular business may meet all criteria except offering fuel, but 
fuel is continuously available from another nearby business. In areas 
where no public rest areas are available for very long distances along 
the Interstate highway, would allowing States this flexibility for 
Interstate Oasis designation better serve the public need?
    6. What symbol (logo) should be used to indicate an Interstate 
Oasis? The symbol must be simple, conspicuous and legible from a long 
distance at freeway speeds, and easily understood. It must also be 
capable of being displayed by designated businesses on their facilities 
and on their private signing.
    7. If a State provides separate signing, such as ``Interstate Oasis 
Next Exit'', advising road users of the availability of an Interstate 
Oasis at an interchange, should the business designated as an 
Interstate Oasis be disqualified from having business logos on Specific 
Service signs for gas, food, etc. at that interchange? Conversely, 
should the States have the flexibility to include the name and/or 
business logo of the designated business on the separate signing, such 
as ``Interstate Oasis--Business Name/Logo--Next Exit''?
    8. Assuming proper marketing and public education, will the name 
``Interstate Oasis'' be readily understood by the public and identified 
with the type of service offered? Utah and Vermont use the names ``Rest 
Stop'' and ``Rest Exit,'' respectively, for the types of facilities 
contemplated under the Interstate Oasis program. Would the Vermont or 
Utah names, or other names, better serve the public, and if so, what 
names are suggested and why?
    9. What educational and marketing efforts would be necessary to 
familiarize travelers and businesses with this program?
    Comments regarding the program and/or the questions listed above 
should clearly state the reasoning behind the responses. After 
receiving and considering comments submitted to the docket in response 
to this Notice, the FHWA may issue a policy memorandum detailing the 
Interstate Oasis program. The FHWA also may propose revising the MUTCD 
via the normal formal rulemaking process, to add pertinent standards, 
guidance, and options regarding Interstate Oasis signing in a future 
edition of the MUTCD.

    Authority: Sec. 1305, Pub. L. 105-59, 119 Stat. 1144; 23 U.S.C. 
109(d), 315, and 402; 23 CFR 1.32 and 655.603; and 49 CFR 1.48(b).

    Issued on: February 16, 2006.
J. Richard Capka,
Acting Federal Highway Administrator.
 [FR Doc. E6-2682 Filed 2-24-06; 8:45 am]