The Interstate 81 Corridor Coalition wants to form a multistate team in order to apply for federal funds to improve truck parking along the interstate highway.
Who is the I81CC?
The I81CC was originally formed in 2011 to improve driving conditions for freight and passenger transportation along the corridor.
This decision came after a roundtable discussion with the 6 states that portions of I-81 pass through. The Coalition determined that there is inadequate parking for trucks along the eastern corridor.
Andy Alden, executive director for the I81CC, told Transport Topics, that the coalition is attempting to keep its momentum going after the insightful virtual roundtable conversation on June 29, which the coalition co-sponsored with the Federal Highway Administration.
“There are some interesting federal funding opportunities becoming available, and there is a pretty big focus on multistate partnerships,” Alden said, “We’re hoping to put together a team of the states along the corridor that might be willing to work together to go after some of that funding and then to do something with it.”
What is the I-81 Corridor?
I-81 is roughly 855 miles long and travels through 6 different states. 325 miles through Virginia, Pennsylvania for 233 miles, New York for 184 miles, Tennessee for 76 miles, West Virginia for 26 miles, and finally Maryland for 12 miles.
“Despite having 31 commercial truck stops with more than 4,800 truck parking spaces and 47 rest areas, truck parking is at a premium, along the corridor,” according to a 2014 report by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Alden also said that anyone who drives on I-81 is part of the problem. He goes on to say that around 5 p.m., you can see many trucks parked on the on/off-ramps or parked illegally along the side of the road and this is a clear sign that there is not enough parking.
A VDOT report shows that trucks account for 20-30% of traffic in some sections of I-81. This percentage also accounts for 42% of Virginia’s statewide traffic. Additionally, between the hours of 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., 63% of truck drivers in Virginia spend 15 minutes or longer trying to find parking.
“The real safety problem with truck parking is when truck drivers don’t have a good place to get a good night’s sleep, they tend to drive drowsy,” Alden said.
“At least two of our states, maybe three, reported that during COVID when the hours-of-service regulations were rescinded temporarily because of supply chain issues, they saw a big uptick in the number of drive-off-the-road crashes that were occurring in trucks and that’s a pretty clear indicator that those drivers were falling asleep at the wheel.”
An October 2018 VDOT study reported that near the Tennessee state line on I-81, 350 truck parking spaces are needed to supplement the current 1,550 in both public and private lots, while a shortage of 600 spaces exists in the southbound direction despite 1,900 available public and private parking places.
VDOT advocated establishing a multidisciplinary task force to investigate private and public ways to alleviate truck parking shortages.
Trucker safety has always been a key issue in this industry, but it is clear with bills like this that the problem is being addressed and key officials are working to maintain safe parking and accessibility.
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