LONGWOOD, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Seminole County leaders said two rest areas along Interstate 4 that are almost 50 years old need to shut down.
On Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners asked county staff to fine-tune a resolution asking the Florida Department of Transportation to close the stops located near State Road 434 in Longwood.
The rest stops are known to many drivers on I-4 for the parade of trucks they bring in nightly. Many nights several big rigs end up parked along the shoulder of the busy interstate because the rest area itself is beyond capacity.
Residents living in neighborhoods behind the rest areas said that brings the smell of diesel fuel and sound of idling 18 wheelers all night into their backyards.
County commissioners said Tuesday that they aren’t against the truckers, rather it’s the location of that rest stop that simply isn’t working anymore.
FDOT said it was built in 1969 and renovated to the current configuration in the 1980’s. The rest stop is also pegged for an expansion as part of the I-4 Ultimate project.
However, many at the Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday said that wouldn’t be enough.
Commissioner John Horan said an urban area has grown up around the rest stops and there simply isn’t room there to meet the still growing truck traffic needs.
Horan said the county is advocating for more truck stops in the Orlando area so truckers could get the facilities they actually need as well as staging space to make their deliveries in Orange and Seminole Counties.
Last year, the county made a similar request to FDOT, but a representative for FDOT said they would need suitable alternatives in order to shut down those current rest stops. Such alternatives have not yet been found.
Horan said there are feasibility studies going on in the state right now to create better support for truckers and more resources for them along the state’s highways. He said the Longwood stops simply just aren’t it.
Truckers at the stop Tuesday said they would be fine with the rest area closing if they had other options, but several said that they’d need a lot more options at this point.
Federal law requires truckers to stop and sleep after so many hours worked, and several truckers commented Tuesday that a shift to new, electronic logs will make those rules even stricter.
As one put it, ‘we need more of these places, not less.’