- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 26, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa Transportation Department plan would gradually close 11 interstate rest areas and all 16 parking-only sites over several years in an effort to be more efficient.

The plan could save the state about $30 million over two decades while reflecting travel trends, according to the department. The Transportation Department is trying to determine how many state-owned facilities are needed as commercial rest stop options increase, said Andrea Henry, a department spokeswoman.

Closures would affect the 15.5 million annual commuters who use the state’s 38 rest areas and truck drivers in need of rest.

“Personally, I am concerned,” said Shirley Phillips of Sac City, secretary of the Travel Federation of Iowa and executive director of the Western Iowa Tourism Region. “The traveling public still needs places to stop.”

Each rest area has been ranked and evaluated on a variety of criteria, including usage and age. The closures would be implemented over the next 15 years, the Des Moines Register reported.

As the parking-only sites along Iowa’s interstate system would close, drivers would be directed to expanded public parking elsewhere or to commercial truck stops, according to the plan. The department is looking at providing additional truck parking at remaining rest areas, weigh stations or other sites.

Several state legislators said Monday that they’ve been assured by department officials that the plan will be carefully completed with opportunity for public comment.

“It is critical that we have enough rest stops, both public and private,” said Republican Rep. Gary Carlson, chairman of the Iowa House Transportation Committee. “We just need to have a balance that makes sense.”

Work on the plan has been ongoing since 2012. The draft plan would eventually go before the Iowa Transportation Commission.

The public can comment on the plan on a state website until September 2019.

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