Iowa Rest Areas ‘Overflowing’ With Parked Semis Every Night

(Radio Iowa) A group is meeting today (Thursday) to discuss how to address the lack of parking spaces for semis along Iowa’s interstates. Steven McMenamin is the Iowa D-O-T’s rest area administrator.

“Typically, we’re overflowing in the rest areas and parking-only areas every night,” he says. Federal rules require a 10 hour rest period after a driving shift of no more than 14 hours. According to the national trade association for professional truck drivers, there’s just one parking spot for every 11 semis on the road today. Some of Iowa’s full-service rest areas are at least 50 years old. There are another 12 interstate rest areas in Iowa that do not offer amenities like rest rooms and just have parking spaces.

“We’re looking at the entire program. What we should improve, what we shouldn’t improve,” McMenamin says. “…The parking sites are popular, but they don’t hold many vehicles.” McMenamin says the Iowa D-O-T has NO plans to close any interstate rest area in Iowa — or to open any new ones either.

“Yeah, we could use more, but we don’t have an unlimited source of funding to build parking spots,” McMenamin says. “In some cases, we can’t even build them in the places where they’re needed, so it’s an ongoing battle and we are aware of the problem and we are looking at the parking availability throughout the entire system.” The Iowa D-O-T is ordering a temporary, winter-time closure for an interstate rest area in southern Iowa that only offers parking spaces. It’s on southbound I-35 in Warren County, near the St. Charles exit. McMenamin says it’s a safety issue for truckers.

“They’re at a dead stop when they go to leave and if the weather changes on that interstate, they can’t get up that hill,” McMenamin says, “so it’s safer just to not have them even use it for three months or so in the winter.” That particular parking-only rest area has been closed during the winter for the past few years. It will officially be closed November 13th and is expected to reopen next spring.