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FEWER STOPS: DOT To Reduce Number Of Rest Areas

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They’re convenient and in Iowa, they’re virtually everywhere.

“I really enjoy the rest areas. You can do your thing in 3-5 minutes and be back on the road,” said Ron Fisher, a traveler.

“It’s just nice, especially in the summer when it’s nice out you can sit, take a break, they have places for the dogs,” said Mark Van Weelden, a traveler.

40 rest areas served over 14,000,000 drivers making their way through the state in 2012.

Iowa DOT Director Paul Trombino says when many of the rest areas were built in 60’s and 70’s, there was a need for this number of facilities.

Things have changed.

“A lot of interchanges didn’t exist back then,” said Trombino.

The DOT recently completed a study measuring rest area traffic and how close each facility is to 24/7 bathrooms and other services.

The result of that study will be fewer rest areas within the next decade.

“I expect in the spring we’ll make some recommendations potentially to close some rest areas,” Trombino told Channel 13 News.

The DOT still has to determine which rest areas to close, how many, and when.

A reduction of rest areas is big news for convenience stores like Casey’s General Stores.

“It certainly could mean an increase in foot traffic,” said Bill Walljasper, CFO for Casey’s General Stores.

The chain known for its presence in small towns has added more than 1,100 locations in the past 25 years and is increasingly building closer to highways.

Walljasper says the design of Casey’s stores is changing to accommodate customers just looking for a bathroom break.

“We want to accommodate all of our customers’ needs and bathrooms are one of them. We want our customers to know that,” said Walljasper.

The Iowa DOT currently spends about $6 million dollars each year maintaining rest areas.

Still to determine by the DOT’s spring meeting is how the changes would affect truck drivers.


  • MaryCannon Derisory Apodaca

    And WHAT about our TRUCKERS…. Oh sure, they can just swing into a Casey’s… We already are seeing the price of everything going up because of fuel, rubber, (think tires) permits and taxes… (sorry I’m not a trucker or I am sure I would have a very long list…) Now we are shutting down rest area’s and that will cost trucks extra time OFF ROAD. I still travel Iowa Interstates, and I stop at least half of the rest areas along my route. I don’t WANT to go to Casey’s… or McDonald’s or anywhere else. There is ONE reason for me to stop at a rest area. I need the immediate convenience a rest area offers, and then I am back on the road. This idea of getting rid of rest areas is flat out insane.

  • Charles Hamilton

    I am an Iowa based truck driver. We now have to stop for at least 1/2 hour before we work 8 hours…we have to sleep for 10 hours after 11 hours of driving. where are we supposed to park? None of the states have nearly enough truck stops, rest areas or parking for all the truck traffic. Casey’s does not have any truck parking. At one time or another I have used every Rest area in Iowa…We truck drivers wish there were more areas with much more truck parking. Having bathroom facilities is a God send for us. What we do not need is more DOT personel in expensive buildings deciding to cut down or eliminate parking for those of us that pay an average of 15,000.00$ per year per truck, in taxes for our highways. Mr. Branstad, you have been allowing violent offenders to be paroled early to offset overcrowding in our prisons. You refuse to reduce pay of Department heads for the state , but wish to cut pay and benefits for teachers, You allow your driver to break our state speed limit laws. Our taxes pay for Rest areas…STOP the MADNESS!

    • MaryCannon Derisory Apodaca

      Charles, Please explain what is involved in getting a truck off the road and into a convenience store parking lot “IF:” there IS room to park a tractor-trailer rig. The extra time involved is gonna cost everyone in the long run.

      My son is a driver and has driven many types of trucks. Imagine the livestock hauler with a full load of cattle or hogs being forced to “swing into” a Casey’s… How long will that last? Yep in no time Casey’s would posting “NO LIVESTOCK haulers”… One who hauls livestock doesn’t take many breaks… Point “A” to point “B” as fast as possible to reduce the stress on the animals is the name of the game, but sometimes a driver MUST stop.

      S O M E O N E is N O T T H I N K I N G…. Wake up Iowa!

      Don’t let the fools who run the government make ridiculous mistakes.

  • Don

    Dear DOT:

    Why have we gone from basic well designed rest stops of the 1960s to the newer giant rest stop palaces that are built today, only to be told that we must now have fewer rest stops because they are too expensive?!?!?

    It’s as though the DOT has completely lost sight of the PURPOSE of these things. Travelers need more BASIC sites, they dont need ANY giant ones. The maint costs of the smaller ones has to be a lot less. And there’s nothing travelers really need, that wasn’t part of the 1960s -1970s configuration.

    Typical government scope creep, spend yourselves into a corner,on things people DONT need,then end up lowering service levels on the stuff poeople DO need

  • David Thelen

    With all this severe winter weather we are having, they ought install the following to prevent cars from driving right into winter weather related road hazards.
    Can new generation of rest stops be built just before the highways and bridges that are prone to winter hazards? These rest stops buildings would be paid for by 100 percent private money, such as big name coffee shops and fast food restaurants rents. It may include a hotel as well for times of very low temperatures for people to take shelter in. There would be a private/public partnership to build extra parking space in case if the highway ahead were to close.
    They would place those solar powered highway digital signs just before off ramps of roadways and bridges that are prone to ice and very low temperatures. There are risks to ice filled roadways and bridges that have caused those multi cars pileups that may be prevented by pointing drivers to these off ramps.
    Problem area roadways could be monitored with cameras and sensors that would set an alarm as soon as ice is starting to form. Temperature and wind chill gauges could monitor some roads, as well. Then if a problem were detected by video feed, sensors or life threatening cold temperatures, they would forward this situation to these digital signs and direct the cars to where there are plenty of businesses, like hotels, for people to take shelter in; in addition to these rest stops, as well.
    This way this section of highway ahead would have no traffic stuck of this part of the roadway. Thus the snow trucks could get by quicker with this. Then after these salt trucks have made their impact. New indoor signs placed within these rest stops buildings will give the go ahead whenever these salt trucks have finally made its impact.
    In addition to winter weather hazards, they would point cars to these off ramps in case of a tornado is projected to cross a section of highway ahead. They would do the same as soon as an accident is reported. Thus cars and trucks will not just be stuck in traffic ahead until they clean up the accident.
    Please consider these ideas as part of any winter hazards and other emergencies planning. This includes building these new generation of rest stops. Then you may make traffic flow smoother and safer by these types of changes. In my opinion.

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