Hey, While We’re at It, Could We Make the Gekko Virginia’s State Lizard?

Looks like the Virginia Department of Transportation will finally start generating some serious sponsorship revenue to help support its 43 Interstate rest stops. CRH Catering Co., Inc., of Connellsville, Pa., will pay the commonwealth $2 million annually to help offset the rest stops’ $21 million in annual operating costs.

As part of the deal GEICO will become an official sponsor of “Virginia’s Safety Rest Areas and Welcome Centers” by encouraging motorists to pull over to rest stops to use their phones for calling, texting, surfing and accessing mobile apps. In a three-year contract, CRH Catering, which specializes in designing vending areas, will pay VDOT with funds generated by its vending operations and the GEICO sponsorship.

Stated Gov. Bob McDonnell in a press release yesterday: “My administration has moved aggressively to find innovative solutions for maintaining and operating Virginia’s rest areas and welcome centers, which provide a safe place for travelers to rest and gather information about the many attractions and services Virginia has to offer. By partnering with the private sector, we are not only keeping our rest areas open, but we are making our roads safer by discouraging distracted driving.”

No official reaction reported yet from the eastern box turtle, Virginia’s official state reptile, but he doesn’t look happy.

Bacon’s bottom line: Kudos to the McDonnell administration for some imaginative thinking. This deal, the first of its kind in the country, could serve as the template for extracting more economic value from the rest stops and putting them on an independent financial footing. Rest stops are a major convenience to the traveling public, and it would be wonderful if, by making them financially self supporting, VDOT could immunize them from budget cuts during hard times.

The press release did not allude to future deals in the making, but the arrangement with CRH Catering does not appear to be statewide in nature. According to its website, the company serves only 16 locations in Virginia. I surmise (but have not confirmed) that different vending machine operators have contracts for the other locations. If I am correct, it may be possible to broker separate sponsorship deals to extend to other restaurants. If we add in the possibility of bringing in additional sponsors, is it wild and crazy to think that the rest stops could cover their entire costs?

If so, that would signal a remarkable achievement in a state where the rest stops narrowly escaped being shut down for lack of funds in the last recession.


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  1. I have a similar idea. Why not let the state lottery run a lottery exclusively for toll highways?

    People who use the toll roads would be automatically entered with the toll transponder and you’d get a separate entry for each toll road use?

    why, I bet people would FLOCK to the toll roads…

    concession prizes could be vending vouchers for the rest areas!


  2. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Taxpayer money pays for rest stops. Why should one ad agency and insurance firm be allowed to cash in? Why not the “General” or “Flo” or State Farm. Why just the obnoxious and oversold lizard?

    Something stinks here

  3. well it appears that the state is letting Geico “help” pay for them – in exchange for certain considerations ….of course.

    I think McD is as much after the optics as much as the “help” which seems to be quite minimal.

    Makes me wonder what other offers they got….

  4. DJRippert Avatar

    Virginia Cavaliers become the Virginia Wal Marteers in a big deal to help defray college tuitions.

    Meanwhile, efforts to sell Richmond to somebody have been thwarted by a lack of prospective buyers.

    However, the members of our General Assembly will start being rented out as clowns to children’s parties as soon as they can be taught to make little doggies out of balloons.

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