Lynne Jackson and her husband were on their way to Deep Creek, Md., when they stopped Monday morning at the Sideling Hill Rest Area on Interstate 68 to use the restroom.
The restrooms were closed, however.
“We were very disappointed to find out we couldn’t use these restrooms,” she said. “We noticed on the map there are not a lot of rest areas on the way, so we were excited when we saw this one.”
Jackson, who is from Camp Hill, Pa., said she decided to use a portable toilet placed at the rest stop for the convenience of travelers, instead of going to another rest stop.
“(Portable toilets) are better than nothing, and we are in an area that we’re unfamiliar with, so we don’t know where another rest stop will be,” she said.
The restrooms at the Sideling Hill Rest Area have been closed since Friday, after officials learned the water pressure was too low to operate the facilities, according to a press release from the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA).
The low water pressure is a result of high levels of silt getting into the water in the wells that serve the facility, SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar said Monday.
“Those wells are more than 20 years old, so high volumes of silt have gotten in there, making our water pressure extremely low,” Gischlar said. “Only two gallons of water per minute were being pumped into the entire facility, which is not efficient.”
The SHA plans to have two new wells drilled at the rest area. Once drilling begins, perhaps later this wek, it is expected it will take about three weeks for the work to be completed, according to Gischlar.
“Our deepest apologies go to those who are inconvenienced,” he said. “We are working diligently to get this rectified.”
The water pumps at the stop are checked regularly, Gischlar said. However, he added that the wells are too deep to be monitored.
“The wells are hundreds of feet underground so you can’t really see a problem until it happens, and it usually happens pretty quickly,” he said.
Although the restrooms are closed, there are five portable toilets in the area, and the vending machines still work.
The closest rest stops to Sideling Hill are the I-70 East and I-70 West Welcome Centers in Myersville, Md., approximately 50 miles east of Sideling Hill. The I-68 Youghiogheny Overlook in Friendsville, Md., is the closest rest stop on the other side of Sideling Hill, and that is approximately 70 miles west.
Joel Gaydos, who was on his way to Columbus, Ohio, for business, said he wished he had known the rest area’s restrooms were closed before he stopped there.
“If I had known it was closed, I could have planned to drive to Cumberland before stopping,” he said.
Gaydos, of Baltimore, said the rest area seems to be closed often.
The facilities are closed from January to April, Gischlar said.
The Sideling Hill Rest Area is at the Sideling Hill road cut about 10 miles west of Hancock.
In addition to using the restroom, visitors often stop to look at the scenery.
The Sideling Hill road cut is a 340-foot deep gash in the mountain, which was blasted to make way for I-68 in the early 1980s, exposing rocks hundreds of millions of years old. The road opened in August 1985.