Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Thursday that the GEICO insurance company will sponsor a "Safe Phone Zones" program at Virginia rest stops and a Pennsylvania-based caterer will take over vending concessions in a public/private partnership intended to defray the costs of operating the state's 43 roadside facilities.
A governor's office statement said Virginia is the first state in the country to secure a sponsor as part of the Virginia Department of Transportation's Sponsorship, Advertising and Vending Enhancement (SAVE) initiative.
The Safe Phone Zones program includes highway signs that direct motorists to Virginia's Safety Rest Areas and Welcome Centers where they can use phones and mobile devices, the statement said.
A three-year contract was awarded to the CRH Catering Co., of Connellsville, which also has offices in Richmond and Norfolk, to develop and manage a new program to generate revenues to help offset rest area operation costs that total about $21 million annually, the statement said.
The contract requires CRH to pay VDOT about $2 million annually "in revenue generated by the ongoing vending program and the new GEICO sponsorship," the statement said.
"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," McDonnell wrote, in the statement. "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."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times