I read this NY Times story this morning about Arizona closing a few handfuls of rest stops to save money.
"Arizona has the largest budget gap in the country when measured as a percentage of its overall budget, and the state Department of Transportation was $100 million in the red last fall when it decided to close 13 of the state’s 18 highway rest stops."
"The roughly $300,000 a year it cost to operate each rest stop was something the department decided it could no longer manage."
“People think, ‘You just go in and change the toilet paper, don’t you?’ ” said Kevin Biesty, the government relations director for the Transportation Department. “The answer is, no, we have to maintain the water quality, we have do maintenance to the buildings and so on. Some of those places in the middle of nowhere are like their own little cities.”
I was instantly confused. Every time I stop at a rest stop, I think "Man, I'd like to have the concessions business here." It's a gold mine. Why don't they lease out the space to McDonalds, Quiznos and others to generate rent revenues? I then realized that we might be talking about dinky little rest stop buildings, where significant development costs might be required before this could happen - and of course, Arizona can't afford those development costs.
Then, in a moment of clarity as I was taking a dump, I had an epiphany: "Why don't they sell the rest stops?" Boom - there you go Arizona - sell the rest stops to a private company who wants to manage them and make money off of them. There has to be a REIT somewhere who would like to develop a rest stop and bring in some easy monopoly business.
Later in the day, I read this, from Marginal Revolution:
"The German municipality of Niederzimmern does not have the money to fix potholes. They are now selling the right to fix the road to anyone. In return, the owner of the fixed pothole can put on the road a text of her choice."