OOIDA, Missouri DOT partner for more parking
What will $13,000 buy you these days? A compact car? Maybe a year’s tuition at a state college?

How about a place for 28 tired truckers to pull off a busy interstate for a few hours of rest? That’s what truckers will find now at a former weigh station site along I-70 just west of Odessa, MO.

With the assistance of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the Missouri Department of Transportation has converted the weigh station pull-offs on the eastbound and westbound sides of the highway and turned them into a truckers’ rest area.

When new weigh stations were completed east of Odessa last year, MoDOT made plans to level the old buildings and cover the facilities with dirt and grass seed.

That’s when OOIDA, which has advocated additional rest areas for professional drivers, asked MoDOT whether the old weigh stations could be converted into a park-and-rest area for truckers.

OOIDA President Jim Johnston said 90 percent of the association’s members had reported weekly difficulties finding parking spaces in public rest areas.

“The government cannot continue to make meaningful progress on the issue of highway safety without addressing the critical shortage of available facilities nationwide for weary truckers to pull over and rest,” he said.

“We were pleased with the willingness of MoDOT to work with us on converting these weigh stations to something that will be appreciated by truckers,” Johnston added. “We are also grateful to the initiative of our own staff in identifying this opportunity and pushing for its acceptance.”

OOIDA is paying to light the facilities, is funding trash pickup and is planning to control litter at the rest area through MoDOT’s Adopt-A-Highway program. MoDOT expects to have signs up showing OOIDA has adopted the area by mid-February.

The new facilities, which opened just before Thanksgiving, provide 14 spaces each on the eastbound and westbound sides of the highway. MoDOT repaired and resurfaced the pavement and striped the parking spots at a cost to the department of $13,000.

The layout of the stops is simple — an exit and a long parking area with a number of white lines designating individual truck parking spaces. Signs a mile away let truckers know the parking area is ahead. The sides of the stop are lined with streetlights, and toward the back, there are a few trash cans.

Truckers are already finding the new facility useful.

“When I went out there Tuesday, there were three trucks on one side and one on the other,” Steve Porter, a spokesman for MoDOT, told Land Line. Several trucks came and went during Porter’s visit.

Abram Edgington was among the drivers who have taken advantage of the facility since it opened.

The Springfield, IL, trucker — who passes through the area three times a week during his regular 3,800-mile routine — stopped to rest at the parking area Dec. 5. The parking area, he says, was a lifesaver.

“It was nice to have last night,” Edgington, a former company driver who has been an owner-operator for eight months, said, “I was about ready to sleep when I got here.”

Edgington, who was deadheading back to his base at Brisk Transportation in Champaign, IL, had a few options when he was looking for a place to rest — there are several truckstops in the area. But he chose the parking area for a number of reasons.

“I do like the idea of a truck-only place,” he said. “Most of the time I see it, it’s a car-only place. It’s nice to see it the other way around.”

Porter said MoDOT was very satisfied with how the project turned out as well.

“It was one of those things where the bang for the buck has been excellent,” he said.

But it wasn’t just the cost savings that made the effort worthwhile.

“We have been able to provide a measure of safety that is extremely important,” he said. “We took something where it would have cost us money, and now, with a little more investment, we have something that will save lives.”

Working with OOIDA, he said, “has been a pleasure.”

The truckers who use the stop seem to agree. Edgington’s brief stop Dec. 5, he said, won’t be his last.

“I’m sure I’ll have to use it again before it’s all over.”

—by the Land Line staff