Prince George's County business leaders have asked Maryland officials to approve and operate two tourist information centers in the county.
Joseph Edwards, chairman of the county Travel Promotion Council's visitor center subcommittee, said the proposed sites at Rtes. 50 and 301 in Bowie, and near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge at I-95, could serve a number of tourists from outside the state.
There are eight centers in the state, but none in Montgomery or Prince George's counties.
Private industry typically pays the $500,000 to $2 million to construct and develop the roadway information centers, a state highway official said. The state in turn pays for operating expenses, he said.
"The area in Bowie is being developed at a remarkably fast rate," Edwards said. "And the Woodrow Wilson Bridge is a conduit for people who visit the county from the District and Virginia."
Edwards said visitors to Andrews Air Force Base, the Capital Centre, race tracks and the University of Maryland need information on upcoming events and points of interest.
Hal Kasoff, director of the State Highway Administration, said that "at this time, we're basically mulling over the options."
Kasoff said the state's tourist centers must "serve not just the county they reside in, but the entire state. That will be one of the things we examine when looking at the proposals."
Howard County has operated two centers on I-95 since 1976.
Ellen Bishoff, administrator of the Corridor Information Centers Inc., a private, nonprofit organization that operates the centers, said 4.3 million motorists have visited the two roadside rest and information centers in Howard County.
Bishoff said a survey conducted by her organization in 1982 found that 81 percent of those visiting the centers were out-of-state residents who spent an average of $29.22 each on accommodations during their visits.
"I don't think there's any doubt about it that information centers beef up revenues for businesses and the state," she said.
Bishoff said the survey found that 70 percent of the motorists had no hotel reservations when they drove into the area.
"As far as tourism is concerned it's kind of nebulous to assess what the benefits will actually be," Edwards said. "The only indication of their usefulness comes from surveys, like the one in Howard."
Burton Oliver, who heads the Bowie Chamber of Commerce, said he was "not sure that the money is there yet to subsidize" the construction of centers, saying that plans "may be a bit premature."
But he predicted that once the multimillion-dollar developments near the intersection are completed, money will be forthcoming.
Currently the University of Maryland Science and Technology Center, and Francis Gaegler's Renaissance Center are under construction near Rtes. 50 and 301.
Mianna Jopp, a travel representative with the Maryland Office of Tourist Development, said statewide, the centers served 1.2 million persons last year.