Florida Slow to Respond to Truck Parking Need Along I-4
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The Florida Department of Transportation plans to start construction on a new truck rest area with 132 spaces near Interstate 4 in Sanford just south of the Volusia County line.
But that won’t happen until 2026, and the rest area won’t open until 2027. And it illustrates the challenges truckers face in finding safe places to park their big rigs in Central Florida.
Lack of truck parking “is an issue nationally,” said Mark Trebitz, a DOT project manager, at a recent Seminole County commission meeting. “And it’s especially an issue in our region here.”
A 2018 DOT study showed 481 additional truck spaces are needed in the Central Florida region because of the increasing number of big rig trucks on the highways. By the year 2040, the demand will escalate to 883 parking spaces.
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Currently, up to 20,000 semi-trucks travel on the I-4 corridor between Daytona Beach and Tampa daily, according to DOT.
According to federal laws, longhaul truckers must stop to rest for 10 consecutive hours after driving 11 hours within a 14-hour span.
“Drowsy drivers, it’s not safe for them to be on the roads,” Trebitz said. “It’s not safe for the rest of the traveling public.”
DOT’s goal is to build at least one new truck stop site in each of Osceola, Orange, Seminole and Volusia counties by 2040, according to recent plans.
The new Seminole truck stop site in Sanford will sit on roughly 19 acres just east of I-4, tucked between Orange Boulevard and School Street.
At an estimated total cost of about $60 million — including the land purchase — the facility will include restrooms, a dog walk area, electric vehicle charging stations, and a perimeter sidewalk for exercising.
DOT is pursuing federal infrastructure grants to help pay for the costs of building Seminole’s and other rest areas along I-4 in the neighboring counties. Seminole commissioners this week agreed to send a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg urging his agency to approve the state’s grant application.
“This project has been on the books for quite some time,” Commissioner Bob Dallari said about the new truck rest area. “This has actually been discussed in this county for at least 25 years, that I’m aware of.”
We are putting our citizens in the path of managing truck stops for the entire I-4 corridor ... Seminole can’t solve the [truck] problem for the entire region.
Seminole County Commissioner Andria HerrImage
But Commissioner Andria Herr called it “extremely concerning” that the state agency is still years away from building other rest facilities for weary truckers along I-4 in the neighboring counties.
“If those are not progressing to the same degree at the rate that ours [in Seminole] is progressing, we are putting our citizens in the path of managing truck stops for the entire I-4 corridor,” she said. “That span between building these cannot be decades. … Seminole can’t solve the [truck] problem for the entire region.”
The other truck rest spots that DOT is considering near I-4 include:
- In Orange County, 20 acres off Sand Lake Road at John Young Parkway, which would provide 109 spaces.
- In Osceola County, 40 acres just south of State Road 532, near the CSX Railroad tracks, which would provide up to 234 parking spaces.
- In Volusia County, 73 acres along eastbound I-4 in Port Orange, which would provide 275 spaces, and 117 acres along westbound I-4 in Daytona Beach near the Tiger Bay State Forest, which would provide 253 spaces.
Those four sites are currently being studied, and it’s likely not until the year 2040 that construction would begin, if ever, officials said.
Trucks and drivers rest up at the Longwood, Fla., rest area along westbound I-4. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel via Tribune News Agency)
On Aug. 16, trucker Eduard Guiterrez was getting ready to head back on I-4 after pulling into the westbound rest area in Longwood the night before. He started his trip near Little Rock, Ark., and was hauling various merchandise on his semi-truck to Fort Myers.
He considered himself lucky to have found an empty space along I-4. In years past, truckers would often park along the shoulder of Longwood rest area’s entrance, until state officials planted dozens of “No Parking” signs along the roadway several years ago.
“This highway is the worst. Everybody knows it’s really bad to find a parking spot here,” he said. If he can’t find a spot, Guiterrez will park at a Walmart or other business with a large parking lot that allows truckers.
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“I hope they do something soon,” he said about DOT’s plans to build new rest areas.
Commissioner Jay Zembower said private commercial truck stops — such as Pilot or Love’s — along major interstate highways should build similar facilities that offer more amenities, such as restaurants and showers, at a faster pace and more efficiently than a state DOT rest area. He hopes those companies consider building along the I-4 corridor between Volusia and Osceola counties.
“That would be fantastic,” Zembower said.
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