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Safe Truck Parking in PacTrans Interstate Corridors: I-5 and I-90

Start Date: December 2016
Funding: Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium (PacTrans)
Project Budget: $100,000
Principal Investigator(s): Dr. Anne Goodchild

Abstract: An inadequate supply of parking spaces for long-haul drivers creates safety issues that may lead to severe or fatal crashes, as tired drivers face the decision of choosing between parking at unsafe locations or continuing to drive.

To better understand the current use of truck parking facilities and safety issues caused by the lack of parking capacity in high-demand locations, the authors reviewed existing research and reports that describe the lack of parking in the PacTrans region. The researchers then identified and provided a qualitative analysis of future trends that will affect this problem.

Finally, the research team developed and executed a survey of truck drivers at two long-haul trucking parking facilities. The research team focused on two high-volume multi-state truck corridors, the Interstate 5 and 90 corridors, that are of interest to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and neighboring state DOTs. This study presents the data collection method, the overall survey results, and an analysis of the findings.

This research provides original data as well as expert insights to support state decision-making in determining the beneficiaries of building and maintaining public and private truck parking rest stops in Washington state.

Key Findings: This research provides new data and insights to answer questions under discussion between state, local, and regional transportation agencies and communities in the central Puget Sound region. One of the most topical questions is whether the state’s economy and/or the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma benefit from the truck trips that require rest stops near the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area. This question is central to understanding their proportional roles and funding responsibilities to add parking capacity where it is scarce: in the central Puget Sound region.

1. The on-site truck driver survey showed that there is an extremely strong tie between truck parking activity and the state’s economy: 91% percent of trucks parked along I-90 (at TA Seattle East Travel Center in North Bend) and 87% of those parked along I-5 (at the Mustard Seed in Sumner) delivered goods to businesses and other customers within Washington State. The evidence belies the hypothesis that most trucks using parking facilities in Washington are passing through the state and therefore provide no economic value to it.

2. Most drivers using the two truck parking facilities in central Puget Sound were not going to either the Port of Seattle or Port of Tacoma. In fact, 83% of truck drivers parked near I-90 and 78% near I-5 did not go to either of the two container ports. Although port-related traffic uses the truck parking facilities, it is not the major cause of increased parking demand at these locations.

3. Why do truck drivers park in these facilities? Surprisingly, more park there – and park longer – for business reasons rather than for safety reasons. The largest group of drivers (34% of those interviewed at TA Seattle East and 36% at Mustard Seed) said their primary reason for the stop was to wait to meet a specific delivery time at their destination or wait to locate another load. When SCTL compared the number of hours parked with the primary reason for parking, it found that delivery operations were the largest driver for longer stays.