Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

Safety Rest Areas & Waysides



MnDOT safety rest area research

MnDOT’s Site Development Unit, with assistance from the Market Research Unit, conducts market research studies to improve an understanding of safety rest area users, non-users and the services they desire. Studies are designed to expand MnDOT’s understanding of a specific market segment in order to improve the delivery of safety rest area services.


Rest Area Amenities Study 2009

Rest Area Spacing Study 2007

Omnibus Survey 2004

Sponsorship Study 2003

Rest Area Truck Parking Capacity Reports 2001-2003

Nighttime Commercial Vehicle Parking Demand 2001

Nighttime Truck Parking Length Study 2000

Rest Areas User Focus Groups 1998

Statewide Telephone Survey 1998

Evaluation of Nighttime Truck Parking Study 1998

Rest Area User Surveys

Rest Area Amenities Study (2009)

MnDOT performed research to better understand customer wants and expectations related to the amenities, products and services at rest areas. Additional specific informational objectives were to:

Identify and measure customer desire for existing and potentially new amenities, products and services;

Determine the effectiveness of the above at encouraging travelers to stop and use rest areas and

Identify relationships that may exist between rest area visitorship and physical condition, cleanliness and onsite staffing.

Included in this report are the findings of the customer telephone interviews regarding rest area amenities, products and services. Specifically defined are:

The key factors that will increase traffic into the rest stops by encouraging drivers to stop more frequently.

Determinations of other conditions that will influence visitors’ usage of rest area facilities.

Prioritize the improvements that will matter most to customers.

View/print study  (PDF 1.5 MB)


Interstate Safety Rest Area Spacing Study - Analysis of Vehicle Crashes Related to Safety Rest Area Spacing (2007)

SRF Consulting Group, Inc. conducted a study in 2007 for the Minnesota Department of Transportation related to rest area spacing and fatigue-related truck crashes. The key findings were:

Single-vehicle truck crash densities increase during all times of the day at distances greater than 30 miles beyond a rest area. (R2 = 0.70)

Nighttime single-vehicle crash densities increase significantly beyond rest areas with high nighttime parking demand. (R2 = 0.94)

Based on this research SRF concluded that:

Spacing Minnesota interstate rest areas at 30 miles or less will reduce drowsy driving-related crashes

Increasing truck parking spaces at Minnesota interstate rest areas will reduce crashes and costs associated with crashes.

Providing adequate rest area truck parking effectively reduces costs related to highway crashes as demonstrated by a cost savings ratio of 1.61.

View/print study one-pager (PDF 137 KB)
View/print study (PDF 596 KB)


Statewide Omnibus Study (2003/2004)

Since 1987, MnDOT has annually sought public opinion about transportation through an omnibus project. Historical data exists for issues such as satisfaction with services, safety perceptions, trip predictability, public involvement and other transportation related issues. For this 2003/2004 wave of the Omnibus survey five MnDOT offices participated in this shared-cost study. The 2003/2004 Omnibus Study addressed the following issues:

Perception of MnDOT’s capabilities to perform selected tasks/activities

Perception of MnDOT’s performance in providing selected services

Perception of the reliability of various MnDOT communications

Trips to work

Biking and walking

Attitudes regarding revenue enhancement ideas

Rest area commercialization and sponsorship by private business

View/print study (PDF 512 KB)


Rest Area Sponsorship Study (2003)

The Rest Area Sponsorship Study assessed marketability to the perspective business community and accessed the acceptance of the program to rest area users.

Business Community Marketability - Determined the marketability of business sponsorships for MnDOT’s Class I and Class II Rest Areas and Travel Information Centers among Minnesota businesses. Marketability included determining the following:

Elements of a sponsorship program that are most appealing and marketable to the business community.

Expectations of the business community in exchange for a financial commitment to sponsor a rest area.

Potential interest of the business community in investigating a MnDOT rest area sponsorship program.

Potential barriers or impediments that relate to program participation.

Perceived value of sponsorship by classification of rest area.

Potential differences in expectations and/or interest by size of sales revenue.

Business type profiles related to varying sponsorship interest levels.

The study included three public focus groups composed of rest area users, several one-on-one interviews with business owners and a quantitative survey of 148 businesses. The market research firm’s findings indicate the program is viable. It will, however, require a very targeted business plan and may initially take some time to market the program.

View/print study (PDF 740 KB)

View/print study focus group report (PDF 233 KB)


Rest Area Truck Parking Capacity Reports (2001-2003)

MnDOT collects truck parking data at rest areas to manage and evaluate commercial truck parking demand at existing rest areas. Collected truck parking data is entered and stored in a database for analysis.

Truck Parking Capacity Usage Analysis Report - These reports list individual rest areas where truck parking data is collected. The report lists a monthly tally for each rest area. It includes the number and the percentage of days truck parking is at or over capacity for the time periods listed below:

View/print analysis report 08/01/2001 through 07/31/2003 (PDF)

View/print analysis report 03/01/2007 through 06/30/2008 (PDF)

Truck Parking Capacity Usage Summary Report - These reports list individual rest areas where truck parking data is collected. The report lists the number and percentage of days truck parking is at or over capacity for the periods listed below:

View/print summary report 08/01/2001 through 07/31/2003 (PDF)

View/print summary report 03/01/2007 through 06/30/2008 (PDF)


Nighttime Commercial Vehicle Parking Demand at 15 High-Use Minnesota Rest Areas (2001)

The purpose of this study was to refine and focus the recommendations of a previous study initiated by the MnDOT published December 1998, Commercial Truck Usage - Nighttime Parking Demand Analysis. This original study analyzed over two years of data on nighttime parking conditions for oversized vehicles at 50 full-service rest areas around the state of Minnesota. An important study finding was that 15 of the 50 rest areas had occasional to frequent nighttime parking capacity shortfalls for oversized vehicles. Since the conclusion of this original (1998) study, data collection has continued at these 15 rest areas. This present study was initiated to define the extent and frequency of existing parking shortfalls within this set of 15, and to identify which rest areas suffered greater capacity shortfalls than the others.

View/print study (PDF 2.2 MB)


Nighttime Truck Parking Length of Stay Study and Appendix (2000)

The purpose of this survey is to determine length of time and how oversized vehicles operators utilize the rest areas along I-94 in out state Minnesota during nighttime hours. For this survey, oversized vehicles are generally defined as those vehicles falling into Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Classes 7 through 12 with the most frequently observed class being Class 9, 5-Axle Semi. A small number of vehicles not in Classes 7 through 12 did park in the oversized vehicle lots and were included in the survey.

View/print study (PDF 659 KB)

View/print study appendix (PDF 622 KB)


Rest Area User Focus Groups (1998)

Focus Groups were held with Minnesota citizens to identify public attitudes towards rest areas, identify the kinds of services that rest area users expect and utilize at rest areas and to identify issues surrounding the maintenance and operation of rest areas. Specific objectives of the focus groups were as follows:

Identify under what circumstances the respondents use rest areas.

Understand why the respondents decide to use rest areas in contrast to the reasons why motorists stop at other locations.

Understand how Minnesota rest areas compare with one another and to rest areas in other states.

Assess how satisfied respondents are with the condition of the rest areas.

Identify concerns that respondents have about rest areas.

Determine if the signage directing travelers to rest areas is satisfactory.

Identify what changes or improvements the respondents would make to rest areas.

View/print study (PDF 359 KB)


Statewide Telephone Survey and Appendix (1998)

A statewide telephone survey was conducted to identify the proportion of Minnesota citizens who use rest areas and to identify reasons why some citizens do not use rest areas. This survey also included ratings of the importance and quality of the services currently available at safety rest areas. In order to reach non-users, a statewide telephone survey of Minnesota citizens was commissioned. This telephone survey was designed to meet the following specific objectives:

Determine the proportion of citizens of Minnesota who regularly travel one hour or 75 miles from home using interstate freeways and state highways in Minnesota.

Determine the proportion of Minnesota citizens who stop at safety rest areas while traveling on Minnesota's interstate freeways and state highways.

Determine why Minnesota citizens who use interstate freeways and state highways make the decision to stop at safety rest areas and which services they typically use once stopped.

Determine why Minnesota citizens who use interstate freeways and state highways make the decision to NOT stop at safety rest areas.

In addition to the study objectives identified above, this survey provides an opportunity to measure the opinions, attitudes and behaviors of rest area users. The following objectives apply specifically to rest area users:

Identify the distribution of vehicles operated by rest area users.

Identify the variation of rest area use by time of day.

Identify the relative importance that rest area users place on specific services available at safety rest areas.

Identify the satisfaction level that rest area users give to specific services available at safety rest areas.

Determine the times of day and situations when regular safety rest area users would avoid using a safety rest area.

Determine overall attitudes towards safety rest areas.

Determine the value Minnesota citizens place on having MnDOT provide safety rest areas on Minnesota's interstate freeways and state highways.

Determine how safety rest areas in the State of Minnesota compare to safety rest areas in other states.

View/print study (PDF 501 KB)

View/print study appendix (PDF 576 KB)


Evaluation of Nighttime Truck Parking (1998)

The objective of this study was to identify rest areas where there is a greater demand for nighttime truck parking than there are available spaces and to document the frequency of this occurrence. This is important because there is a growing industry and public concern about the availability of adequate safe off-highway parking opportunities for commercial vehicles. National trends indicate that more commercial drivers will operate on our highways each year. Because of this the need for adequate nighttime commercial vehicle parking facilities in Minnesota will also grow. Driver fatigue and the unsafe parking of commercial vehicles on highway shoulders and on interchange ramps are specific safety conditions that can be reduced when adequate off-highway parking facilities are available. This study was initiated for two primary reasons:

It is part of an on-going effort by MnDOT to understand the needs of rest area users in general as well as the specific needs of commercial vehicle drivers.

It is in response to a FHWA study that concluded that there exists a severe shortage of nighttime truck parking at safety rest areas in Minnesota.

This report documents the analysis of data collected in this study and the finding that current commercial vehicle parking demand in several MnDOT safety rest areas frequently exceeds the available parking spaces. Information generated from this study will permit MnDOT to:

Identify sites and highway corridors with a shortage of existing commercial vehicle parking spaces.

Consider commercial vehicle driver parking needs in the timing and prioritization of rest area rehabilitation projects in the Department’s investment program.

Encourage private businesses to construct or expand commercial truck stops in the high demand corridor.

Establish baseline data to begin analysis to determine if nighttime commercial vehicle peak parking capacity needs should be considered in Minnesota’s Safety Rest Area Capacity Calculations Formulas.

Establish baseline data at critical sites to measure changes in parking demand when roadway or facility improvements are made, both public and private, to reduce parking deficiencies at a site or in a corridor.

View/print study (PDF 383 KB)


Rest Area User Surveys

MnDOT operates a network of safety rest areas along the Interstate and high-volume non-Interstate highways. Since 1969, MnDOT has conducted surveys at safety rest areas throughout the state. This data has provided MnDOT the basis for determining the size of buildings and parking lots and has validated and identified services that the public uses and desires at safety rest areas.

View user surveys