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Restrooms to close at Sideling Hill center

Md. SHA is modifying services and hours at rest areas

Md. SHA is modifying services and hours at rest areas

December 16, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HANCOCK -- A Maryland State Highway Administration official said Wednesday the restrooms at the Sideling Hill Exhibit Center on Interstate 68 west of Hancock will close Jan. 5 and reopen by the end of April.

Sideling Hill is one of several rest areas and welcome centers at which the state intends to modify or eliminate services, State Highway Administration spokesman David Buck said Wednesday.

The restroom closure at Sideling Hill will save the state about $114,000 in water, electricity and other costs, Buck said. The combined savings from all modifications will be about $567,000, he said.

The changes come as the state is trying to trim $1.5 billion from its budget.

The exhibit center, which opened in 1991 at the site of a deep rock cut, included a four-level geological museum and information center. Officials closed the exhibit center portion of the attraction Aug. 28 to save the state money, but kept the restrooms open.

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Buck said the state will urge motorists to use restrooms at nearby hotels, restaurants and gas stations while the rest area is closed.

"For the purpose of a bathroom, you only have to go five minutes on either side (of Sideling Hill)," Buck said. "Will the amenities be the same? Probably not. But a bathroom is a bathroom."

The state will post signs to let motorists know about establishments with restrooms, Buck said. If everything goes well, business at those places will increase.

"Hopefully, people will eat their food and stay at their hotels," Buck said.

The closure at Sideling Hill will not affect truck drivers because trucks were not permitted on the premises, Buck said.

The nearest public welcome center to Sideling Hill on Interstate 68 is about 75 miles to the west at Friendsville, Md., according to a list of Maryland rest areas. The hours at that welcome center are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tom Riford, president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said in an e-mail that the restroom closing at Sideling Hill would hurt tourism in Washington County because people will drive straight through without stopping.

"Sideling Hill still has travel information," Riford said. "But after the rest area is closed, with no restroom hours, there'll be no chance to tell travelers what's here."

Modified services and hours at rest areas



The Maryland State Highway Administration is modifying services and hours at the following rest areas:

o U.S. 219 Cove Overlook Rest Area near Keyser's Ridge

On U.S. 219, about 2 1/2 miles south of I-68 in Garrett County

Closing the restroom facilities permanently

o I-68 Youghiogheny Overlook in Friendsville

On eastbound I-68, 1 1/2 miles east of Friendsville in Garrett County

Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., no night hours

o I-68 Sideling Hill Rest Area

On I-68, about 10 miles west of Hancock in Washington County

Closing the restroom facilities January through April

o Crain Memorial Welcome Center

About 2 miles north of the Potomac River on northbound U.S. 301 in Charles County

Open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

o U.S. 301 Bay Country Rest Area near Centreville

On U.S. 301 in Queen Anne's County, about 15 miles north of its junction with U.S. 50.

Open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., no night hours

o U.S. 13 North Welcome Center in Pocomoke

On U.S. 13 northbound, just north of the Virginia state line in Worcester County

Open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., no night hours

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