Truck Stop Coming to Rural North Carolina Highway
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A $1.6 million U.S. Department of Commerce grant to a southwestern North Carolina town is paying for new infrastructure to support opening a Love’s Travel Stop with truck parking along rural U.S. Route 74 that connects the Atlantic coast to Tennessee.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo recently unveiled the project when she announced the Economic Development Administration grant to Spindale, N.C., to fund necessary water and sewer system improvements to support business growth and new regional jobs.
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“This EDA investment will help create opportunities for residents to get good-paying jobs in the trucking industry and other in-demand sectors, like hospitality,” Raimondo said. “President Biden’s Investing in America agenda provides communities — including those impacted by a decline in the coal economy — with the resources they need to grow and diversify their economies.”
The federal dollars were awarded under the Assistance to Coal Communities initiative meant to help communities severely impacted by the declining use of coal with projects that promoted new jobs, economic diversification, capital investments, workforce development and re-employment opportunities.
EDA’s money, which will be matched with $388,809 in local funds, is expected to create/retain 35 jobs and generate $5 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates.
While noting that the water and sewer system work is needed to support the expansion of a local truckload carrier company and attract other businesses to the area such as a travel plaza, federal officials provided no details about company names.
Love’s Travel Stop spokesman Brett Dawson confirmed the company “closed on a property at Highway 74 off Exit 178 in Forest City,” about 4 miles from Spindale.
“A Love’s Travel Stop is scheduled to open there in the third quarter of 2024, though the construction timetable is weather-dependent and subject to change,” he added. “Love’s Travel Stops are located across the country in locations that are easy to access for the traveling public, casual customers and professional drivers. The location in Forest City meets those criteria.”
Instrumental in getting the project off the ground was the Foothills Regional Commission, which spearheaded regional planning to join the public and private sectors to create an economic development road map.
Jordan Barnes, FRC program manager for community and economic development grants, told Transport Topics the name of the local trucking company is FWK Transport (which goes by FreightWorks Transportation and Logistics) of Rutherfordton, N.C.
The location for infrastructure development is at the intersection of U.S. routes 74 and 221. According to the N.C. Department of Transportation, fewer manufacturing and distribution facilities are located directly along U.S. 74, but it is an important freight corridor anchored by the Port of Wilmington in the east and the Charlotte region’s freight assets in the west. It also connects the Wilmington port with Interstate 95 South. In its busiest sections, U.S. 74 carries nearly 6,000 trucks daily.
Barnes said construction on the infrastructure upgrades is estimated to start next February and be completed in July.
The federal grant enables Spindale, located in the Blue Ridge foothills off U.S. 74, and the Broad River Water Authority to improve “this strategically important transportation corridor and helps to remove barriers to economic growth and job creation in Rutherford County,” Barnes noted.
“Without the expansion of this critical infrastructure,” he added, “neither company would have access to public water or sewer service, and any future development would be severely limited by the lack of adequate infrastructure.”
The project could bring about 50 new truck parking spaces for commercial vehicles, North Carolina Trucking Association President Ben Greenberg said, noting that getting more truck parking has been an NCTA legislative priority.
“I understand the project is going to come with new truck parking spots at an important highway interchange in N.C.,” Greenberg said. “It’s something everyone in the industry can get behind. It helps companies with fleet utilization, safety, driver pay and workforce development.
“If we can’t offer new drivers safe places to sleep at night when they’re away from home, we’re not going to solve any driver shortages.”
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The North Carolina Statewide Multimodal Freight Plan, finalized in June, mentioned concerns over inadequate truck parking. The report offered strategies to gain additional parking spaces, such as increasing truck parking spaces at all rest areas and weigh stations, building lots at abandoned rest areas and pursuing public-private business ventures.
The state has 190 truck parking facilities with more than 6,600 authorized spaces, of which nearly 90% are owned by companies.
“Improving truck parking in strategic locations will help to make conditions safer for truck drivers and other travelers, reduce unnecessary fuel consumption and improve the efficiency of commercial vehicle operations,” NCDOT’s freight plan said.
NCDOT spokesman David Uchiyama said state engineers met with developers proposing the truck plaza around the highway intersection at 74/221 in November 2021 and received a site plan the following year. The state has already approved Love’s Travel Stop’s application for a driveway permit for the project.
“NCDOT will also issue encroachments to assist with water and/or sewer lines within the NCDOT right-of-way,” he said.
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