Thinking big: Texas to double number of truck parking spaces at rest areas

| Friday, July 30, 2004

The state of Texas is in the process of more than doubling the number of truck parking spaces at the its safety rest areas, officials from TxDOT told Land Line.

The program started in 1999, when the Texas Transportation Commission authorized the use of federal enhancement funds to revamp the aging rest areas.

The state’s reasons for the renovation effort are simple, according to Andy Keith, manager of the safety rest area program at TxDOT: Increase safety on the road by alleviating driver fatigue.

“To do that, you have to have a nice comfortable place for people to stop, and they need to not have any trepidation about stopping there,” he said.

The problem was particularly bad in Texas. Statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency showed that the state had the highest number of highway accidents caused by fatigue of any state in the union.

The state had such a shortage of truck parking compared with demand that at night, “they’ll fill it up with trucks, entrance ramp and exit ramp,” Andy Keith, manager of the safety rest area program at TxDOT, said.

But that will soon change.

“We’re probably more than doubling” the number of truck parking spaces in the state’s rest areas, Keith said.

When the upgrade of all the rest areas is done, he said, each will have a minimum of 28 truck parking spaces on each side of the highway, compared with many that now have a capacity of 15. Many of those current rest areas don’t have any parking specifically designed for trucks at all.

One new rest area along Interstate 40 has 50 truck parking spaces on each side of the highway – “more than any of the others,” Keith said. But even that new rest area shows just how short the state is of meeting demand.

“It’s not uncommon at nighttime to go out there and count over 100 trucks on each side,” he said. “They park everywhere.”

The state has completed renovations of 18 of its 84 original safety rest areas. But it has also added two new rest areas since April, with plans for more. TxDOT also operates the state’s 12 travel centers, all of which contain truck parking.

In the end, the department will operate 114 locations with new, expanded truck parking facilities. But even that, Keith said, will not be enough.

“I think it’s more than any other state, but we just can’t keep up with the truck parking spaces here in Texas, there’s so much demand,” he said. “It’s going to take a partnership or a cooperative effort with the commercial truck stop operators.”

Texas, true to its reputation, is not skimping in building the new rest area facilities.

Information on the TxDOT Web site shows that all of the new safety rest areas will have:

  • Multiple picnic arbors;
  • Completely enclosed restroom buildings;
  • Ample lighting in all public areas for enhanced security;
  • A kiosk with local information including a map;
  • A drinking fountain; and
  • A telephone.

Some of the rest areas in more heavily traveled areas will include more enhancements, such as:

  • Vending machines;
  • Security surveillance cameras;
  • Free high-speed Internet access through Wi-Fi; and
  • Separation of Truck and RV parking from passenger car parking.

The state is also trying to locate as many of the rest areas as possible near historical sites, and is working with local and state historical societies to incorporate historically significant items – such as old bridges, windmills or railroad cars – into the rest area designs.

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor

Mark Reddig can be reached at mark_reddig@landlinemag.com.

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