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.