Parking Solutions

Max Kvidera | January 01, 2012

The initial phase of the five-year pilot program covers engineering and deployment at two test sites on I-5, one a drop-and-hook terminal in Lathrop, east of the Bay Area, and the other a Flying J truck stop with 187 spaces at Lodi. The Lathrop location is a secure facility that will be used to test sensor performance, while the state Department of Transportation will test several sensing systems at Lodi. A second phase will add two public and four private sites to the program.

In a trucker survey, 72 percent said it would be useful if they could use the Internet to monitor parking availability.

Government tackles parking

For the last few years, the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded grants to states to help reduce truck parking shortages. In 2006 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration launched its SmartTruck program, designed to examine how technology can provide real-time data, including parking availability, to drivers.

Earlier this year, DOT awarded $4.4 million to Michigan and more than $2 million to Minnesota to cover truck parking information systems that deliver real-time information on parking availability.

Michigan’s project is focusing on I-94 from the Indiana state line to the I-69 interchange. Initially five state facilities – four rest areas and a welcome center – will be wired. Later, 15 truck stops will be outfitted with instruments.

The exact format of the information and the type of information is still being discussed, says Collin Castle, ITS engineer with the Michigan Department of Transportation. “Ultimately we’re trying to determine the number of available parking spaces at facilities,” he says.

Under consideration for the project to be delivered in 2013 is a web-based system where a user could check individual parking facilities to see real-time availability. Another option is a smart phone application that could deliver parking information to a subscriber, as well as to a statewide management system, Castle says.

Minnesota is targeting 100 miles of I-94 west of the Twin Cities for its project aimed at mitigating driver fatigue. The state is preparing to install equipment at three rest areas and a Pilot truck stop, says project manager John Tompkins of the state Department of Transportation. The state DOT and University of Minnesota will set up electronic message signs on highways and a website for the anticipated rollout next summer. Equipment will scan the facilities for open parking spaces and real-time information will be presented to system users.

In 2010, DOT provided grants to Mississippi, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Utah to add parking capacity or intelligent transportation infrastructure along key interstate lanes. All but Mississippi have begun to take advantage of the grant money.

Tennessee’s Department of Transportation is evaluating where to locate Intelligent Transportation System instrumentation to monitor parking availability. The state’s $800,000 federal grant originally had targeted facilities on I-40.

Pennsylvania’s $2.1 million grant covers a system to alert truckers to parking availability at rest areas along I-81. The state DOT is planning testing for a system that would start in 2013 or later.

Kentucky’s Truck Rest Haven program has provided truck parking at weigh and inspection stations over the last few years. Information is available through the state’s 511 Traffic and Travel service online or by dialing 511 or (866) 737-3767. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.