Orange barrels are being rolled out at 18 highway rest areas across Virginia as part of a cost-cutting plan.
The Virginia Department of Transportation said crews early Tuesday were placing the distinctive barrels at the entrance ramps of the rest stops to signal their closure.
The rest stops to be closed include seven along Interstate 81, four on I-95, four on I-85, two on I-64, and one on I-66. The I-66 Welcome Center in Manassas will remain open through mid-September. Click here for a map of the open and closed rest areas across the state.
State transportation officials decided last month to close 19 of the state's 42 rest stops to help ease a $2.6 billion budget gap over the next six years. Each rest stop costs about $500,000 annually to operate.
AAA Mid-Atlantic called on Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to find the money to reopen the rest stops.
"Highway safety, not to mention comfort, hospitality and tourism, have today taken a big hit," the motorists' group's spokesman, Mahlon G. Anderson, said Tuesday in a news release.
Anderson expressed concern that tired drivers will "zoom past a closed rest area into harm's way, perhaps hurting others as well."
Kaine and Transportation Secretary Pierce Homer last week sought help from the state's congressional delegation to let Virginia to get around a federal law that bans commercialization of rest stops, but no help arrived.
The shutdowns also have become a campaign issue for the candidates in the gubernatorial race.
Republican Bob McDonnell says he would seek to change tranportation-funding priorities, ask groups to contribute to rest-area operations and consider using work-release prisoners and people ordered to perform community service to maintain the sites.
State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, the Democratic nominee, has supported efforts to change the law to allow state rest areas to be commercialized. Deeds has said he'd reopen them within 60 days of becoming governor.