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Why you’ll see the GEICO gecko on Va. interstates

NEW KENT COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) – The GEICO gecko is coming to a Virginia rest area near you. Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton announced a partnership between the Commonwealth and the insurance company Thursday morning at the New Kent County rest area.

“The issue for us is how can we recoup some of the value and help offset the cost of our operations,” Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton told CBS6.

Under the agreement, GEICO will sponsor the “Safe Phone Zones” program. The program encourages drivers to pull over at a Virginia rest area to use their phones to call, text or use the web. In exchange for the sponsorship GEICO will have their logo placed on rest area signs.

“This is the first of its kind in the United States,” Geico Vice President Joe Thomas said.

“My administration has moved aggressively to find innovative solutions for maintaining and operating Virginia’s rest areas and welcome centers,” said Governor McDonnell in a statement released to the media. “By partnering with the private sector, we are not only keeping our rest areas open, but we are making our roads safer by discouraging distracted driving.”

The state will receive 2 million dollars annually because of the partnership. State leaders say that will help offset the yearly operating cost of 21 million dollars.

The cost of operating the facilities have been a burden over the years. Former Governor Tim Kaine closed several rest areas in 2009. Governor McDonnell opened many of them again when he took office.

“It’s imperative for us to work with companies like Geico,” Connaughton said. Hinting that corporate sponsorships of public facilities help prevent taxes from being raised.