Feds wasting scarce funding on useless parking projects

June 2019

Tyson Fisher

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New reports regarding local truck parking are too numerous and small in scope to report on individually. However, what each of these news items means to the underlying national problem is too significant to ignore. Below is a roundup of the latest truck parking-related news items from across the United States.

State funding vs. federal funding

A common theme since the last Parking Zone has been funding. This should come as no surprise considering that without an infrastructure bill, funds are dwindling. With that said, it’s surprising how much money is being wasted on useless projects.

Exhibit A: Four states within the Southwest Interstate 10 corridor recently received nearly $7 million in federal funding to address the truck parking problem in the area. Those states are Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.

This sounds great until you hear what the grant money is allocated for. It’s not for more truck parking spaces, which is the only solution to the problem. Rather, it’s another Federal Highway Administration grant for the mostly useless signs that notify drivers how many parking spots are – or are not – available.

When you tally all the money the federal government has spent on studies and worthless technology programs, you come up with a boat load of cash that could have been used to add a substantial amount of truck parking spaces. That’s the real truck parking problem.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma is making major renovations to a rest area in Stroud, which is the halfway point between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. In addition to new and improved travel plazas along the Turner Turnpike, the project will add truck parking spaces.

Currently, Stroud has 75 truck parking spaces. Recognizing that these spots fill up quickly, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority decided more spaces are needed. Once the $16 million project is complete, Stroud will have a total of 250 truck parking spaces, more than three times the current amount.

The federal government, which has much more money than the states, spent a paltry $7 million for an entire corridor across four states that netted exactly zero new parking spaces. Oklahoma, on the other hand, spent more than twice as much and will soon have two brand spanking new travel plazas and more than 200% more truck parking spaces at one location.

See the problem here?

Local resistance

As is common, a few towns across the nation are fighting truck stop proposals. For example, a trucking company near Chicago wants to use its private land for truck parking, at least 50 spaces. However, the company is having a difficult time getting the permits needed. Mind you, this company already exists and already owns the land.

In San Juan County, Utah, one resident wrote a letter to the editor regarding the School and Institutional Trust Land Administration selling land to a truck stop. Here’s the logic behind denying that sale:

“SITLA’s sale of property to an operation that is known to attract drug dealers, prostitutes and transients will result in an adversary conflict between SITLA and the local residents.”

Apparently, the truck stop operator interested in the area is Love’s Travel Stops, one of the “big three” truck stop corporations and known for clean facilities. This person hears “truck stop” and immediately his mind goes to the land of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Local acceptance

Fortunately, there was actually more good news than bad this time around. In Antonito, Colo., a truck stop will open this year off of U.S. Highway 285. No word on the number of truck parking spaces, but with 14 acres of land, there’s plenty of room.

Meanwhile in Drayton, N.D., Love’s Travel Stops will open a location off Interstate 29. The local news angle from the Grand Forks Herald mentions that the truck stop will create more than two dozen jobs. Imagine that. An economic upside to a corporate truck stop in town?

Here’s a twist: An Illinois city is actually paying to get a truck stop. Well, kind of. The city of McHenry is considering a $1 million incentive agreement for a retail complex development that will include a Thorntons truck stop. Estimated to cost $15 million to construct the development, the city is mulling a 20-year incentive that rebates sales taxes up to $1 million.

Not exactly giving a truck stop $1 million to come in, but the city has no problem surrendering $1 million for a complex it knows will include a truck stop. Why? Because the city knows the sales tax revenue the truck stop will generate more than covers those costs. It appears that Drayton, N.J., and McHenry, Ill., understand how basic economics work. LL

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Tyson Fisher

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.