In a bizarre development, the fast food industry does not want fast food restaurants to line Virginia's highways. On Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported that Virginia and other cash-strapped states are choosing to close highway rest-stops to save money. To prevent us all from having to pull over to the side of the road, Virginia is floating the idea of getting a decades-old ban on private business along interstates overturned, and have suggested that private business (fast food and gas stations) step in to “commercialize” the rest stops and keep them open to motorists.
Here’s where it gets weird. Gov. Tim Kaine, (D-VA) supports the commercialization of rest stops. But the Partnership to Save Highway Communities, whose members include McDonald’s, Burger King, the franchises of Taco Bell and KFC and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers has opposed Virginia's efforts calling it a “dangerous precedent” whereby "any state experiencing budget shortfalls seeing commercialization as a potential solution."
PSHC claims that opening stores along the highway would detract from business in the communities whose economies depend on motor-tourism. However, it seems more likely that their real concern is probably felt by the individual franchise owners who opened stores when commercialized rest stops were illegal, and feel this unfairly shifts the value of their off-highway locations. I certainly don't see any concern for local business here in Massachusetts, where McDonald's already litter the Mass Pike (I-90). A little self-serving? I wonder what truly locally owned and operated businesses might have to say about all this.