Iowa DOT plans closure of two rest areas, no plans to close more

By Clarissa Hawes, Land Line staff writer | 12/17/2013

Two rest areas along Interstate 80 will be razed in 2015 to make way for an interchange project in Dallas County, Iowa.

However, Steve McMenamin, rest area administrator for the Iowa Department of Transportation, says that despite some reports that more rest areas may be closing, those are the only two on the chopping block for now.

“The closures you are hearing about now are the result of an interchange project where the ramps will impact those rest areas,” McMenamin told Land Line. “As for plans to close more (rest areas), there has been no decision on that for sure. I have no instructions that we are going to close down more rest areas.”

In fact, McMenamin said the Iowa DOT has made efforts to preserve and create truck parking spaces when it can.

While the two sites will be demolished on I-80, McMenamin said a weigh scale near those sites will be reopened, adding 22 truck parking spaces, 11 apiece, on both the west and east side of Des Moines.

Iowa DOT’s rest area budget is approximately $6.1 million, which includes maintenance costs for 40 buildings, 16 truck-parking only sites, site utilities and employee wages, according to McMenamin. He said the 16 truck-parking only sites have added nearly 200 truck parking spaces along the interstate system.

“Looking at the per site cost, it isn’t that expensive, but nonetheless we are looking at how that system should look in the future, whether we have too many rest areas. The spacing now is 60 miles apart when years ago it was 30 miles,” he said. “We have replaced half of these rest areas with new buildings, so we have to look at that as well, because we have invested some money in that program already.

He said discussion of rest areas is ongoing as part of the agency’s rest area management plan that Iowa DOT recently finished.

“We were looking at spacing of rest areas, the change in the actual guidelines, the availability of more services now than when the interstate was built. Most of our buildings were part of the original construction in the 1960s and early ’70s,” McMenamin said.

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