The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a combined $33.5 million to build new truck parking facilities in Texas and Louisiana as project sponsors find ways around a lack of dedicated funding pools for such projects.
A truck travel plaza in Caldwell County, Texas, was awarded $23 million from DOT’s Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program, a competitive grant program used to fund freight and passenger transportation projects.
Another truck parking facility in northeast Louisiana was awarded a $10.5 million RAISE grant.
The parking expansion was included in the RAISE program’s FY2023 grant awards announced Wednesday — 162 infrastructure projects totaling $2.2 billion. The latest round of funding received an $800 million boost from the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
“This round of RAISE grants is helping create a new generation of good-paying jobs in rural and urban communities alike, with projects whose benefits will include improving safety, fighting climate change, advancing equity, strengthening our supply chain, and more,” stated DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
The grants for the two projects follow similar truck parking expansion grants awarded last year through another DOT program — Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) — in Florida and Tennessee totaling $37.6 million.
The four projects are evidence that state and local governments are heeding Buttigieg’s call last year to apply for truck parking expansion funding from within existing DOT programs absent a dedicated grant program for truck parking.
RAISE grants (formally known as TIGER grants) and INFRA grants were both created under the Obama administration, in 2009 and 2015, respectively.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has been backing legislation on Capitol Hill for several years to create a grant program dedicated to truck parking. The latest bill, which would set up $755 million in funding over three years, passed through committee in the House in May and awaits a floor vote. Companion legislation in the Senate is still in committee.
The truck plaza in Texas will be between Austin and San Antonio, near the intersection of state highways 130 and 80. It will include approximately 20 short-term and 100 long-term truck parking spaces, entry/exit gate control, lighting, fencing, a rest stop with restrooms and showers, and 24-hour monitored security.
“Safety will be addressed by constructing truck parking that will help reduce crashes and fatalities involving trucks parked in unauthorized locations,” according to DOT. “The project also aims to encourage truck drivers to use SH 130 rather than I-35 to diversify the traffic load and reduce crashes on the interstate. Innovation was addressed throughout the development of a mobile application to help truck drivers find and reserve available parking at a safe facility.”
The Louisiana facility is part of a $20 million “multimodal connectivity and safety” project adjacent to the Port of Columbia, an inland port on the Ouachita River. The facility will be able to accommodate 50 trucks for overnight parking as well as 100 cars. It will also be equipped with six electric vehicle chargers for semi-tractors and six chargers for passenger vehicles.
The Columbia Port Commission, the project’s sponsor, noted in its grant application that a lack of designated truck parking “typically makes a challenging issue worse: through premature damage to roads not designed to handle heavy loads, higher crash risk from trucks parked in the right-of-way or on side streets, and complaints from residents.
“For drivers, the stress of finding legal parking is just one of many concerns. The time spent looking for parking results in lost productivity and lost wages. Parking illegally or in undesignated areas often presents the risk to personal health and safety, fines, cargo theft or vehicle damage. The proposed [truck parking facility] has been designed to mitigate community impacts and concerns.”
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