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Welcome Centers in Trouble

Welcome centers, rest areas and weigh stations have been ranked as the least important programs for Georgia Department of Transportation. This means these roadside stops will receive less funding due to state budget cuts.

Last year, over 16 million people stopped at Georgia's 11 visitor centers, and 71 percent of them stayed overnight in hotels. It's something that the tourism industry is very pleased about.

"The visitor center are number on their priority list, we are the main point as visitors came in the state of Georgia and our key is to provide Georgia to the tourists," says Hilda Seymore, Visitor Operations Manager.

But due to state budget cuts, the Georgia Department of Transportation has ranked the roadside stops as the least important program. It plans on spending only a little over $5 million of its $688.5 million budget on the help stations.

Motorists say it's important to keep up the rest areas because they rely heavily on these spots while traveling.

"We like to eat at the picnic tables, we love the weather, that's why we are down here and we don't go to fast food restaurants to use their bathrooms. We would rather eat our sandwich here and use the facilities," says James Oehlberg, a traveler from Michigan.

Higher priorities for DOT include resurfacing roads, bridges and sending state aid to local highway departments, but people with the Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism say the rest areas remain number one on their list.

DOT's ranking was decided after Gov. Perdue ordered state agencies to help with the state budget by calling for a 2.5 percent cut this year, and another 5 percent next year.


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