GOVERNMENT CAMP, Ore. - The only rest stop between Portland and Madras in Central Oregon is about to close, unless someone other than the Oregon Department of Transportation finds a way to pay for it.
ODOT will close the public restrooms along Highway 26 in Government Camp October 31st, due to budget cuts.
“We’d prefer not to have to be closing this place down but under the budget climate that we’re in there’s really no choice,” said ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton.
The move is part of a two-percent cut is operating costs the agency says it must make. Drivers don’t like it.
“There are other places they can close, and cut back,” said Phila Simmons, who stopped on her way home to Woodburn after visiting Idaho.
Richard Carkhuff stopped to use the restrooms, too.
“Oh my goodness, you’re going to have people pulling off on the side of the road to relieve themselves; that’s not good. A cup of coffee in Madras would not last until Portland,” said Carkhuff, who was traveling to Portland from his home in Bend.
The rest stop has been open for decades. It sits on Forest Service land off the highway in Clackamas County. A county spokesperson say they expected more time to figure out a way to fund the facilities, in light of ODOT’s plan to pull out. ODOT says the deadline had to be set.
“The process has been going on for two years of letting the partners know that this has been coming and no serious offers have come forward about this, and if somebody does we’ll be happy to discuss this further,” said Hamilton.
At the nearby Huckleberry Inn, the restaurant restroom is for customers only. They fear even more people will come in, to ask to use it anyway.
If they stop that, this one here… is not enough,” said waitress Ofelia Saray. Neal Fair lives and works on Mt. Hood. He thinks ODOT should look to save money elsewhere.
“To be able to relieve yourself on a long trip is a basic human need I’m sure, and the state of Oregon should be able to provide that to their motorists,” said Fair.