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Pennsylvania lacks sufficient truck parking

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(The Center Square) — Despite decades of awareness, Pennsylvania still lacks enough parking spaces for the burgeoning trucking industry.

The issue is a national one, but finding ways to make truck parking pay off remains a stubborn problem.

“When you get a private partner involved, unless there’s a revenue-generating opportunity associated with the new parking spaces that are being built, they’re not going to be terribly interested,” said Thomas Phelan of Gannett Fleming, a consulting company hired by PennDOT, during a meeting of the State Transportation Advisory Committee on Wednesday.

Federal law limits commercial services at highway rest areas, too, which means that expanding publicly owned rest areas can’t be privately financed.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has spent years on truck parking, with a 2007 report noting that the state had a shortfall of 4,400 spaces – leaving 1,100 trucks parked on highway shoulders and ramps on a typical night. The agency predicted that truck traffic would increase by 50% by 2030.

“There is no clear champion or lead organization to address the problem,” the report noted. “The public and private sectors each have a role. But there is a limit to each partner’s responsibility, legal authority, and capability to construct and operate facilities. Drivers are caught in the middle.”

Since that report, Pennsylvania has gone from 203 parking facilities to 290, Phelan noted in his presentation, with almost 1,000 more spaces and about 100 fewer trucks parked on shoulders and ramps. However, parking facilities have become more cramped, with a 103% overall utilization rate.

To lessen the parking crunch, municipalities could make zoning changes to require businesses to provide parking on-site for drivers, Phelan said. Upper Macungie Township has done so in recent years. Schuylkill County’s master plan, he noted, has also included industrial parking space beside a convenience store and fast-food restaurant to make it viable.

Truck parking is so difficult because of its high costs. Even in rural areas, the land can be used in more-valuable ways.

In one case study, Phelan said each truck parking space would cost $60,000.

Locals, too, are not always supportive of more truck parking due to noise, pollution, and the risk of crime or more dangerous roads.

Outside Philadelphia, Bensalem city officials argued they wouldn’t let the township become a “parking lot for tractor-trailers.”

PennDOT will have an updated report on truck parking by the end of the year, with a presentation to the Transportation Advisory Committee in December.

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