MnDOT announces electronic signage project

By Clarissa Kell-Holland, Land Line staff writer | 1/14/2013

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has announced plans for an electronic signage project designed to check the availability of truck parking – a touchy subject among truckers who struggle to find actual parking spaces every day.

Since the new highway bill was signed back in July 2012, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has been urging DOT offices around the country to make truck parking a top priority and create more parking spaces, instead of spending money to study the problem.

A provision known as “Jason’s Law” in the new highway law was enacted to dedicate federal money to help construct, improve or reopen commercial parking facilities along the National Highway System.

“It is our hope that states will move away from spending millions of dollars on parking systems that simply inform truckers something they already know – that there isn't any parking out there,” said Laura O’Neill, director of government affairs for OOIDA. “Instead, we hope that the DOT will work with the states under ‘Jason’s Law’ to increase parking availability. Perhaps then, spending millions on signage would be more meaningful for truckers.”

According to the MnDOT press release, cameras will be placed at the Interstate 94 Elm Creek rest area two miles northwest of the intersection of Interstate 94 and Interstate 494 beginning in January 2013. Testing will continue until April 2013.

In its release, MnDOT states the project will use a network of automated cameras and wireless servers to check truck stops and public rest areas along the I-94 corridor.

After the test phase is completed and the system goes live, truck drivers will receive notification of space availability through a website, in-cab messaging and signage along I-94.

After the highway law known as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century – or MAP-21 – was signed, OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. The DOT was urged to use funds to create more truck parking instead of directing truck drivers to already crammed truck parking areas.

“The need to increase true investment in truck parking, and not simply add electronic signs directing truckers to rest areas that are already full for the evening, is well known to our nation’s truckers,” Spencer wrote in his letter. “Every night, they face the prospect of getting to their planned truck stop or rest area only to find it filled to capacity, something that only adding more parking capacity can fix.”

Related story: OOIDA urges DOT to make truck parking top priority

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