State revs up action to close freight truck parking gap
Miami-Dade County and South Florida have faced a shortage of freight truck parking spaces for at least a decade. Port of Miami is one of the largest container ports in Florida and Miami International Airport was handling 81% of air cargo tonnage in the state by 2014. Playing such a role in the freight cargo industry comes with challenges.
The last study by the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization in 2010 and 2012 revealed there were only 293 truck parking spots in the county but there was demand for 12,000, which would require development of 1,100 acres. Those numbers have evolved over the years but the problem remains the same and the solutions are limited.
Carlos Castro, District Six freight coordinator for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), said the department is now conducting a supply and demand analysis to get updated numbers and show existing conditions in the truck parking arena. Results are expected in December or January.
“The issue is really the cost of land, specifically in highly urbanized areas like Miami-Dade County,” he said. The shortage of truck parking facilities is a problem nationwide. “If you look at the entire nation, highly urbanized areas experienced the same kind of problem, that is, the high cost of the land that’s competing with these types of facilities.”
Mr. Castro explained that due to high land cost, the private sector is more likely to develop other commercial facilities.
“Traditionally, those types of facilities are delivered by the private sector. The private sector takes care of filling that gap,” he said. “Unfortunately, when the cost of land is so high, the finances do not work,” he continued. “Therefore, the developers specialized in those types of facilities are unable to acquire the land to develop those types of facilities… the finances don’t work.”
As a result, FDOT is getting into the business of creating truck parking facilities, incentivizing the private sector by providing department-owned land and offering potential upfront capital investments to help the private sector make the finances work, Mr. Castro said.
Miami Today reported in June 2020 that the county and state transportation officials targeted a 17-acre parcel near the Golden Glades Interchange for a “Truck Travel Center.” It would include at least 135 truck spaces and amenities such as fueling, truck repair, truck washing, truck weighing and dining, shopping, laundry and showering space for drivers. Since then, the department has continued to work on that project.
Mr. Castro said the project will add 135 to 140 parking spaces and construction is expected to begin in fiscal 2023, between March and June. “We’re actually underway, beginning the process for a request for proposals, and in about a year from now, we probably are going to be advertising a design-build contract, and then hopefully begin construction in our fiscal year ’23.”
Efforts to overcome the truck parking shortage come from different agencies. The Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), on its end, is organizing a regional workshop about free parking that includes Broward and Palm Beach counties and the Federal Highway Administration, to which they would look for opportunities to expand truck parking in the region.
Aileen Bouclé, TPO executive director, told Miami Today that the federal administration would provide specific resources and experts in the field. Additionally, the organization has been working with Tallahassee to submit freight priority projects for funding.
“We continue to advocate and request funding for the Golden Glades interchange parking truck parking facility,” Ms. Bouclé said. “We also have Northwest 36th Street as a priority for improving truck traffic flow… and we’re also very interested in the interchange of the Palmetto and Okeechobee Road.”
For this project, FDOT is looking to redesign the interchange, including ramp access and overpasses. “They’re looking at how the flow of traffic through this intersection can be improved,” she said.
Both agencies continue to work on projects to develop freight truck parking and improvements in mobility, but this is a challenge yet to be overcome.
“We are looking at other pieces of land that we own for potential development for parking facilities,” Mr. Castro said. “But again, there’s competing interests and there’s not that many parcels that have the appropriate characteristics such as the size, the proximity to limited access facilities or highways, proximity to load centers, and proximity to warehousing assets.”