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Congresswoman Claudia Tenney

Representing the 22nd District of New York

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney Calls on Federal Highway Administration to Address New York State’s Violation of Federal Law

August 8, 2017
Press Release
Tenney Expresses Concern Over New York State’s Commercialization of Interstate Rest Areas

Binghamton, NY—Today, Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY-22) urged the Federal Highway Administration to hold New York State accountable for it’s violation of established federal law through the commercialization of rest areas on interstate highway I-81 in Binghamton, NY.

According to 23 USC 111 (c), interstate rest areas constructed after 1960 are only permitted to sell food and drink in vending machines. However, in 2011, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an initiative to increase the sale of items produced within the state including a proposal related to the construction of rest area along interstate highways to showcase New York-made products. Currently, two such rest areas have been constructed, one of which is located in Binghamton. These rest areas are in direct violation of established federal law.

“Commercialization of rest areas on interstate highways is a direct violation of established federal law. Local communities and small businesses across New York State depend on revenue from interstate traffic. Promoting a state run monopoly that gives private entities no chance of competing threatens the livelihood of small businesses within the 22nd District and across the state that are located just off the interstate,” said Congresswoman Claudia Tenney. “While I support efforts to increase the sale and distribution of New York State products, Governor Cuomo’s decision to construct these rest areas along the interstate violates federal law and harms local businesses in already struggling Upstate communities. Today, I am urging the Federal Highway Administration to proceed with efforts to work with New York to rollback the commercialization of rest areas and ensure compliance with federal law.”

“The travel plaza community is grateful to Congresswoman Tenney for her leadership in working to bring the state of New York into compliance with the federal law prohibiting the sale of food and other commercial services at rest areas on the Interstate right-of-way,” said National Association of Truckstop Operators (NATSO) President and CEO Lisa Mullings. “As Congresswoman Tenney has said, by violating this prohibition and putting established businesses in direct competition with the state, New York is making it harder for businesses to create jobs and is draining already cash-strapped local communities of critical tax revenues.”

“The New York State Committee of Blind Vendors greatly appreciate Congresswoman Tenney’s efforts to uphold existing federal law prohibiting commercial Interstate rest areas. Under the Randolph-Sheppard Act, permits are awarded to blind vendors to manage vending locations at rest areas along federal interstates, ensuring that blind entrepreneurs have gainful employment opportunities. Commercialized rest areas, as is currently occurring in Binghamton, result in a significant loss of sales for blind entrepreneurs, devastating the blind community, which already battles a 70 percent unemployment rate among working-age blind adults.  Thank you Congresswoman Tenney for your leadership,” said Gary E. Grassman, Chairperson New York State Committee of Blind Vendors.

“I want to thank Congresswoman Tenney for her leadership on this issue.  As she notes in her well-written letter, by flouting federal law and commercializing the rest area on I-81, the State of New York is entering into direct competition with private businesses such as mine.  In this environment, I have no hope of competing.  Every time a highway traveler buys food at the rest area instead of my restaurant or convenience store, the City of Binghamton loses valuable tax revenue. These are dollars that go toward local schools, roads, and emergency services.  This is wrong and it is illegal. I am very grateful to Congresswoman Tenney for recognizing the important role that off-highway businesses play in the local community, and for using her position in Congress to look out for those businesses and the communities they serve,” said Nancy Polkowski, General Manager, TA Binghamton travel center.

“SIGMA applauds Congresswoman Tenney’s effort to ensure that the state of New York complies with federal law, which clearly bans commercial activities at interstate rest areas. SIGMA members have built their businesses by providing fuel and commercial services in a competitive environment along the highway interchanges. This competitive environment is beneficial to the consumer and the local communities in which our members operate.  We thank Congresswoman Tenney for standing up for the fair competition upon which our members depend,” said Tim Columbus, General Counsel, Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA).

“Kudos to Congresswoman Tenney, for three reasons:
  *   She wants federal agencies to follow the rules
  *   She sticks up for small business
  *   She opposes government-sponsored concessions that would hurt existing private enterprises,” said David Feldman, Park Outdoor Advertising (billboards in upstate New York and northern Pennsylvania, with offices in Utica, Binghamton, Elmira and East Syracuse)

“The National Council on Chain Restaurants commends Congresswoman Tenney for leading the fight to bring the state of New York into compliance with federal law. Restaurants in New York have invested millions of dollars to operate near the Interstate Highway System with the understanding that they would be allowed to serve the needs of the traveling public in a fair and competitive marketplace.  By operating commercial rest areas from an advantageous location on the Interstate right-of-way, the state of New York is promoting a monopoly on food sales that ultimately will force consumers to pay higher prices while jeopardizing those restaurants that provide jobs and local tax revenues,” said Rob Green, Executive Director, National Council of Chain Restaurants.

To read the letter, click here: PDF iconLetter to Federal Highway Administration.pdf

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