Iowa DOT considering plan to close nearly one-third of rest areas

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The Iowa Department of Transportation released this month a draft of a plan that would, if implemented, close nearly a third of the state’s full-service rest areas and all of its parking-only rest areas, eliminating approximately 279 truck parking spaces across the state.

The state currently operates 38 full-service rest areas and 16 parking-only locations. Iowa DOT’s Statewide Rest Area System draft plan would close 11 of the full-service locations and all 16 parking-only sites over a period of 5-30 years. These site closures would eliminate approximately 35 percent of Iowa’s public truck parking spaces.

According to the agency’s plan, during overnight peak parking hours, there were more trucks parking at rest areas than there were available spaces, which led to trucks parking on the shoulders of rest area entrance and exit ramps.

The plan adds, however, that parking spaces at 10 of the 16 parking-only rest areas are less than 74 percent utilized during peak hours and are less than 94 percent utilized during peak hours at four of the 11 full-service locations set to be closed. Only two of the 16 parking-only locations have more than eight truck parking spaces, Iowa DOT notes.

Of the 11 full-service sites on the chopping block, nine have adjacent full-service rest areas that Iowa DOT says “may be able to absorb or be augmented over time with additional truck parking,” but increasing the size of these locations “may be problematic due to terrain, access, adjacent land use,” and more.

Additionally, seven of those nine sites would require additional right-of-way to add truck parking, and the cost to add truck parking to these rest areas would range from $1.75 million to $3.5 million per site. The agency says there would be “opportunity for private facilities to also assist through new development or expansion over time.”

In order to accommodate for the lost truck parking capacity, Iowa DOT says it is planning for and investigating potential mitigation efforts to help offset the loss of parking. Some considerations by the agency include parking cameras with real-time parking availability updates, adding truck parking to adjacent rest areas and weigh stations and more.

During the agency’s data collection, it found that while approximately 35 percent of public truck parking spaces would be eliminated, approximately 660 unused truck parking spots were available at nearby truck stops when the data was collected.

“The real issue is not necessarily the lack of parking spots, but no good way to quickly communicate with our freight partners where parking is available,” the report states.

The draft plan and other materials related to rest areas in Iowa can be found here. Iowa DOT is also seeking public input through September 2019, which can be made here.

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