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Iowa DOT Wants Public Feedback in Plan to Close Many Iowa Rest Areas

IOWA  --  When driving through the state of Iowa, your list of places to stop may be dwindling. The Iowa Department of Transportation has put out a plan for what they believe the future of rest areas should look like.

In a plan to save 30 million dollars over the next 20 years, the Iowa DOT wants to shut down 27 of Iowa’s 53 rest areas. This plan would span about 30 years and some of the newest rest areas, such as the one behind me, would remain open.

Some people are not very happy about this plan.

“I think they’re really needed, you never know when you might need to stop, take a break, and use the facilities also. We have so it’s also good to take a break with the pet also,” Newton Iowa resident Dixie Cox said.

Ron and Genny Harris have driven their camper and boat up from Arlington Texas, they said with such large vehicles, stopping at a gas station just to use the restroom isn’t a possibility, “We even have to be so careful when we got off for any, I mean we can’t go to any fast food restaurant or anything because we are half a foot longer than a big rig. But they can back up, we cannot back up.”

The DOT said having such frequent rest areas is an outdated requirement. They said when the transportation system was built, cars moved more slowly and were not able to travel as long. So, rest stops were required every half hour.

“But today cars travel much faster, much longer distances. In addition, we have a whole system of privately owned facilities such as gas stations and truck stops and restaurants where people can take that rest brake that’s needed,” Iowa DOT Communications Director Andrea Henry said.

The rest areas they wish to close were based on some set criteria, truck parking was one of the biggest things they looked at.

“With any rest area that we are recommending closure on, we are looking at ways to implement more truck parking in facilities that are nearby. So, finding ways to add truck parking spots to existing rest areas or maybe other state-owned facilities such as a way station or something else,” Henry said.

The DOT is involved in an initiative with several states across the I-80 corridor in working on a real time truck parking availability system.

“What that system is finding ways to look at all of the truck parking spots along that corridor and making those available to truck drivers as they’re traveling down I-80 so they know what parking spaces lie ahead,” Henry said.

Henry said the Iowa DOT is still a couple years out from implementing their plan and they are currently asking for public feedback. Visit iowadot.gov/restareaplan to view the full plan and leave a comment or suggestion. They are accepting public feedback through September 2019.