With usage low, Dale-area rest stops to close

Photos by Daniel Vasta/The Herald
Jeremy Steele of London, Kentucky, walks back to his pickup truck at the Nancy Hanks rest area in Dale on Friday. The rest area will close by the end of February. 

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

DALE — Two rest stops on Interstate 64 West and East between Huntingburg and Ferdinand offer truckers and travelers a convenient way to recharge, relieve themselves or grab a snack from on-property vending machines.

Before the end of February, they will shut down for good.

It’s a move that will benefit other rest areas in the state but will also affect how truck drivers drive through the area.

“It’s going to affect me because between here and (U.S.) 41 where I get on at, it’s the only rest stop between here and Kentucky,” said Devereaux Palmer, a Cleveland truck driver who frequently uses the stops on his way from Northern Ohio to the Toyota plant in Princeton.

A representative from the Indiana Department of Transportation explained that the Nancy Hanks rest areas were selected to shut down after a months-long, statewide study examined the usage and condition of locations across the state.

“So, kind of what it boils down to is the usage at Nancy Hanks is very low,” said Jason Tiller, INDOT’s Southwest Indiana communications director. On average, about 1,300 vehicles visit the two sites per day — about 8 percent of the traffic that uses the nearby interstates.

Tiller said it would cost about $2 million to make upgrades at both of the aged facilities, and with the usage being low, the expense wasn’t justified. Those dollars could be better utilized at other, more utilized rest areas, he said.

“It’s not a decision that we make lightly,” Tiller said. “Truck parking is a fairly major situation that Indiana and other states face. It’s not as though we relish the idea of losing some of our safe spots for our truckers to park. However, with the development around — there’s four exits in the area that offer very similar amenities — really the loss isn’t going to be that great according to what we believe is the best data available.”

Overnight parking is not allowed at the Nancy Hanks rest areas, but an on-site employee said trucks lined the lot when he arrived to work on Friday morning. An official date of closure has not been set.

Dan Sweigard of Cincinnati, Ohio, exits the Nancy Hanks rest area in Dale on Friday. Sweigard stopped at the rest area while passing through. 

In the near future, the site will be gated off and the facilities, parking lot and ramps will be demolished. The exit will no longer be accessible to the public.

After visiting the rest areas and speaking with employees, Ray Striegel, president of the Dale Town Council, said the facilities look good inside and out. He detailed recent repairs — including the installation of new metal roofs on both buildings and resurfacing of the ramps — and thinks closing them is a safety hazard. He asked, “Why spend all that money, then close them?”

“Most local people do not stop at rest areas, but if you get a chance, stop and see what good shape they are in,” he said. “Every night, there are 25 to 30 trucks parked on each side. Where are they going to go?”

He continued: “INDOT said they have the Dale and Ferdinand exits. There are no truck stops on either exit.”

Truckers at the eastbound Nancy Hanks grounds said on Friday that rest stops offer more convenience than exits. Even at those exits, Palmer said there might be places to park a car, but not a truck.

While at the eastbound stop, he said that it is “one of the nicer ones,” adding that it’s clean and is well kept.

“(They’re) somewhere to rest,” Palmer said of the rest areas. “We’re forced to take 30-minute breaks every day, so you’ve gotta take your break somewhere in that eight-hour period. So, it’s kind of convenient for us and there ain’t really nowhere else for us to park, unless we park on the side of the road or on the off ramps or something like that.”

The closest Indiana rest areas to the Nancy Hanks locations include the Black River Welcome Center in New Harmony, 52 miles to the east, and the Lanesville Welcome Center in Georgetown, 56 miles to the west.

Galen Lamb of Shawneetown, Illinois, stops to get a snack at the Nancy Hanks rest area in Dale on Friday. Lamb stopped while passing through to visit family in Louisville, Kentucky. 
Indiana tourism pamphlets at the Nancy Hanks Rest Area in Dale on Friday.
Truck driver Abdul Ahmed of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, washes his hands and face in the restroom of the Nancy Hanks rest area in Dale on Friday.
Grounds keeper Samuel Fleeger of Lamar sits in the maintenance room at the Nancy Hanks rest area in Dale on Friday. Fleeger is one of several employees working at the rest area that will lose their job when it closes.



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