Iowa DOT plans to close eight rest areas, add truck parking in $100M plan

The Iowa Department of Transportation plans to close seven rest stops in the next eight years, and one more later. (Photo courtesy of the Iowa Department of Transportation)

The state plans to close more than one-fifth of its full-service rest areas, mostly over the next eight years as part of a $100 million, 30-year update of the system, the Iowa Department of Transportation announced Wednesday. 

The state also plans to close 10 parking-only sites while expanding overall truck parking at rest stops by 30%. 

The work will include closing eight of the current 38 full-service rest areas, or 21%. Seven of them would close before 2028. 

The rest area closures would be at Missouri Valley, Sergeant Bluff, Story City northbound, and Loveland. The state had planned to close the southbound Interstate Highway 35 rest area at Story City, but because it is newer, the plan now is to leave it open until 2049 or later, state officials said. 

Parking-only sites would be closed at Mondamin, Salix, St. Charles, Osceola southbound, Huxley southbound, Northwood, and Avoca eastbound.

In the next five years, 18 of the full-service rest stops will be 50 years old, a state study found. “As these facilities get closer to this age, there is an imperative need for either considerable investment for rehabilitation or closure of insufficient facilities,” the DOT report says. 

The changes will leave the state with 30 full service rest areas along with six parking-only sites. 

The state would add 247 truck-parking spaces along the interstate highways.

The state estimated it would cost $800,000 to close each rest area, but $4 million to $6 million to build each new one. Closing parking areas will cost $400,000 each, with replacement lots each costing $1.5 million to $2.5 million. 

The most recent plan drew 700 comments and 759 survey responses. 

Many of the public comments supported the free restroom services provided at the rest areas, where motorists don’t feel obligated to buy something as they might at a convenience store or truck stop, the report noted. Truckers asked for more parking spaces with an electronic monitoring system that would tell them which ones are open. 

The state plan calls for improvements to 12 existing rest areas that also would get more truck parking, between 2022 and 2033. Six parking-only sites will get more spaces and no-flush vault toilets. 

The state considered the age of the facilities, spacing, truck parking demand and availability of alternative facilities in deciding what changes to make. 

The state has talked about closing rest areas for years, drawing many complaints from truckers and their associations, along with motorists who often drive long distances. The state has argued that there are far more commercial businesses that offer restrooms and other facilities than when the rest stops were first installed. 

In, 2018, the Des Moines Register reported that the state was looking at closing 11 full-service rest areas over 15 years, with a projected savings of up to $25 million. 

Perry Beeman
Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.