Sometime in the near future, Colorado Department of Transportation officials would like for you to be able to pull over at one of its rest areas and charge your electric vehicle.
But federal law that prevents the commercialization of interstate right-of-ways — including rest areas, park-and-rides, and similar facilities across the country — is preventing that. A change to that law, which has CDOT’s support, is part of the $715 billion transportation bill the U.S. House passed last week.
Readily available chargers will help convince more motorists to buy electric vehicles, which in turn will help the state meet its climate goals, said Michael King, CDOT’s assistant director of electrification and energy.
“Building charging in places where people are already traveling and want to travel, both for work, but also for recreation, is a really critical piece to move all of those goals forward,” King said.
The existing federal law dates back to the early 1960s and was intended to protect and promote private businesses — gas stations and the like — along highways. The federal government cited it in turning down a state plan to add charging stations to the Burlington Welcome Center on the Eastern Plains, CDOT officials said in a letter to the state’s U.S. House delegation.
State and national industry groups representing truck stops, convenience stores and fuel marketers want that law to remain intact. Some national chains, like 7-Eleven, have said they will add charging stations at some of their stores.
Chargers on government property will undermine those private investments, said Grier Bailey, executive director of the Colorado Wyoming Petroleum Marketers Association.
“When the government starts competing directly with private industry, utilizing government land, then you’re undercutting the tax base and you’re killing the investment that folks have made in their community,” he said.