Friday, July 16, 1999

Truckers battle for rest area parking




BY JANET C. WETZEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MONROE — As the shadows of twilight settle over the rest areas on Interstate 75 near Monroe, tractor-trailer rigs swoop in on parking spots like hawks pouncing on prey.

        They fill every spot in the rest areas, every available foot of the entrance and exit ramps, and spill onto the highway — north- and southbound.

        The scene is all too common, said truckers who stopped at the I-75 rest areas in Monroe this week. The problem is particularly acute in the evening, when weary drivers are searching for a handy, safe, inexpensive place to rest.

        “When truckers get tired, get drowsy, they don't need to be driving these big rigs down the road, taking a long time to search for a place to park,” said trucker Chad Wiatrek, of Stockdale, Texas.

        Officials say the overflow of truckers from the rest areas can be dangerous to other motorists, especially if the semis are not completely off the highway. There are no easy fixes, but the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) will triple the spaces at the Monroe rest areas.

        But the rest areas will be closed during the six-month construction, tentatively set to begin Dec. 1.

        The parking upgrade was planned months ago, and had nothing to do with a crash last month that took the life of Terry Beagle, of Batavia. He was killed when he ran off the highway and into a semi parked along the roadway near the rest area in Monroe.

        ODOT does not track how many truckers use the rest stops, but 1997 traffic counts show that the area in Monroe is heavily traveled, she said.

        “The bottom line is there aren't enough places for truckers to park, and it is a safety concern,” said Lt. Tim Bally, of the Ohio State Highway Patrol's Hamilton Post. “If they're able to get within the ramp going into or out of the rest area, we don't say too much about that. But where we get really concerned is when they're backing up onto the main part of the highway. That's more dangerous because people are driving at higher speeds.

        “We understand the problems of the truckers — they have to have some place to park. But we also have to worry about the rest of the motoring public,” Lt. Bally said. Troopers usually issue warnings instead of citations when truckers made every effort to park safely.

       



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