States seek truck parking remedies

By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer

Truck parking – or the lack of it – is one of the top daily struggles that truck drivers face when out on the road.

However, some states are searching for possible solutions for their truck parking woes.

In Missouri, the state’s department of transportation is seeking comments from truck drivers about its plan to convert two of its aging rest areas into truck parking-only sites.

DeAnne Rickabaugh, a Missouri DOT spokesperson, told Land Line that comments would be accepted through March 4 on the agency’s preliminary plan to raze the current buildings. This would add about 15 to 20 additional truck spots at each of the two sites located at mile marker 110 near Fruitland on Interstate 55.

Rickabaugh said each site would be able to accommodate approximately 30 trucks and have portable restrooms, according to MoDOT’s proposed plan.

In a MoDOT release, Eric Krapf, project manager, stated that “outdated facilities, the cost of upkeep and cleaning of the facilities, and limited truck parking” were the three major reasons for the proposed changes. 

Maine lawmaker introduces bill to reopen rest areas
A lawmaker in Maine introduced a bill in January, aimed at reopening two rest areas along Interstate 95 that were closed nearly two years ago because of budget cuts.

State Sen. Douglas Thomas, R-Ripley, introduced his bill to reopen the two Pittsfield sites that the Maine Department of Transportation closed in June 2009 in an effort to save $690,000 over a two-year period.

The state DOT also blocked access to the parking areas using gates. Those closed sites had been previously updated by the agency back in 2002-2003, which cost an estimated $1.5 million.

Thomas’ bill also calls for reopening a scenic overlook on I-95 northbound in Medway. His bill has been referred to the state Senate’s Committee on Transportation.

Virginia bill would put prisoners to work
Shortly after taking office, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell reopened the 19 rest areas that were previously closed by former Gov. Tim Kaine because of budget concerns.

Now, McDonnell is seeking solutions as to how to pay for them because each of the state’s 42 rest areas cost an estimated $500,000 per year to maintain.

Bills have passed in both the House and Senate to put prisoners to work as a way to curb maintenance costs. If the governor signs the bills into law, prisoners would cut grass, clean and do other maintenance tasks along interstate roadways.

California town council pursues on-street permits
Across the country, truck drivers struggle to find parking options when they are out on the road and face similar situations when they are home as well. Many local ordinances prevent them from parking their rigs at their residence. However, one California community is working toward a compromise for its resident truck drivers.

In Lathrop, CA, council members are considering an on-street permit program that would allow resident owner-operators to pay to reserve a parking spot at a city-maintained lot.

The council voted 3-2 to allow city staffers to prepare a 30-day survey “that would poll local owner-operators” to gauge their interest level in pursuing this type of program. 

Currently, Lathrop municipal code prevents truck drivers from parking their rigs at their homes.

Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal voted in favor of the plan to survey Lathrop truckers to find out if they would pay to have a place to park their rigs. According to the Manteca Bulletin, Dhaliwal said the truck parking issue has come back to the council for review at least five times.

“I think that city staff is spending too much time on this when they should be focusing on things like jobs and revenues,” Dhaliwal said.

Staff will now prepare the 30-day survey and report back to the council with their findings. Other items to be reviewed include whether the lots would be concrete, asphalt or gravel lots.

Tennessee pushes to end commercialization ban
In February, the Tennessee General Assembly continued consideration of a resolution urging the U.S. Congress to repeal what it calls “an archaic federal law” that prohibits commercialization of interstate rest areas built after 1956.

The resolution states that “while these rest stop closures are causing negative controversy for state officials, there should be low-cost or no-cost ways to keep them open.”

Tennessee lawmakers argue that by overturning the federal ban the state would be providing an “enhanced level of service to consumers and ensuring the solvency of state governments.”

Washington state looks at privatization, too
In Washington state, two bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate regarding rest areas.

House bill 1630 would allow private entities to operate state-owned safety rest areas. That bill has been referred to the House Committee on Transportation. Senate bill 5218 would authorize commercial activity at state-owned rest areas. That bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Transportation.

Iowa bill seeks cost-benefit studies
In Iowa, a bill has been introduced in the Senate that would require the Iowa Department of Transportation to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of keeping an existing rest area open versus the cost of constructing a new one. SF105 is currently in committee.

The bill would mandate that the state “consider all available options for reconstructing, expanding or otherwise improving existing rest areas” and not build a new rest area unless making improvements to the existing rest area is cost prohibitive. LL