Ohio to revitalize rest stops along major highways in state

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday revealed plans to replace 33 of Ohio’s over 80 rest area buildings over the next four years during during a showcase of the state’s first rest stop as you enter Preble County from Indiana on Interstate 70.

The Preble County Welcome Center, which opened in 2019 and is located inside Ohio’s western border, was recently re-imagined with upgrades, which include native Ohio plants and landscaping, dog trails, Ohio music, rocking chairs, and a Storybook Trail outside.

“What you see today is really a rest area re-imagined,” DeWine said. “We’re going to try to take this prototype throughout the state of Ohio with all of our rest areas.”

Displays within the rest stop lobby area also tell the story of Ohio’s history with aviation, from the Wright brothers to Neil Armstrong, along with noting other historical figures in Ohio’s past, like Paul Laurence Dunbar, an influential Black poet. A large state map also illustrated major roadways, attractions, cities, and state parks.

“This Welcome Center is really a first impression for people as they come into the state of Ohio,” DeWine said. Approximately 33,000 people travel through the area, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.

“Rest is a safety concern. We know one of the reasons we have rest areas is so people can rest so that people don’t get groggy as they are driving,” DeWine said. “While travelers rest, we want them to learn about Ohio history and to learn about all of the things they’re about to see here in the state of Ohio.”

The Dayton Daily News reached out to the state to find out how much will be spent on the renovations at the rest stops. At the Welcome Center in Preble County, the aviation heritage information displays cost $25,000. The Ohio Department of Transportation produced the Storybook Trail, which cost less than $1,000.

The next rest stops to undergo similar revitalization this year will be on the eastern half of Ohio, including one stop in Meigs County, one in Washington County, two stops in Portage County, and one in Ashtabula County.

“We are re-imaging more than 30 rest areas over the next four years,” said Ohio Department of Transportation director Jack Marchbanks. “It’s an aggressive schedule, but I know our ODOT facilities team, along with our good partners at the Department of Development, are up to the challenge.”

In 2024, there will be improvements made to two stops in Fayette County, one in Muskingum County, and two in Belmont County.

In 2025, over a dozen stops will get improvements, including two in Miami County and additional stops in the counties of Van Wert, Wyandot, Marion, Union, Madison, and Pickaway.

In 2026, two stops in the counties of Butler, Auglaize, Delaware, Summit, and Lake each will get improvements.

“The Ohio Department of Transportation is constantly assessing the locations of rest areas, those which we should close, those we should repurpose, but what we look at first of all is that they are safe,” said Marchbanks. “We calculate every rest area, including this one. This is needed for trucks and civilian motorists.”

Tourism brings in approximately $50 million annually to Ohio as travelers come to watch collegiate or professional sports, see state parks, or visit the over 50 four-year colleges and universities, not including the 14 public four-year universities.

“This newly re-imagine space is bright, it’s interesting, and it’s full of ideas to help visitors find their next adventure in our great state,” said Ohio Department of Development director Lydia Mihalik.

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