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Turnpike, Parkway rest areas to see $250M in improvements as part of new deal with vendors

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Gov. Chris Christie announces the service area improvement project Wednesday in Wall Township.
Gov. Chris Christie announces the service area improvement project Wednesday in Wall Township. - ()

Commuters on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway will be able to rest a little easier, according to an announcement Wednesday from Gov. Chris Christie.

The Office of the Governor announced in a news release that 16 service areas along the two major toll roads would be enhanced as part of a $250 million project — that will not cost the state any money.

Instead, private companies HMSHost and Sunoco will make the capital improvements in exchange for new contracts to continue their operation of the food and fuel concessions at the stops for the next 25 years.

The deal, reached with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, includes replacement of buildings at several service areas and remodeling at several others.

“This agreement will provide drivers with the safest, cleanest, modern highway rest stops up and down the Turnpike and Parkway, without spending any of their tax and toll dollars, while continuing to ensure the most affordable fuel in the region for the next few decades,” Christie said in a prepared statement. “It represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enlist our proven partners in the cause of replacing service area facilities as old as the toll roads themselves with pleasant, state-of-the-art facilities for tens of millions of people to rest, grab a bite, fill up, then head back out to the road refreshed and ready to safely reach their destinations.”

HMSHost is replacing 1950s-era buildings at eight service areas with new facilities costing $10 million to $15 million each. Construction will begin in 2018 and be completed in 2019, the governor’s office said.

These service areas include:

  • Vince Lombardi (Turnpike);
  • Thomas Edison (Turnpike);
  • Joyce Kilmer (Turnpike);
  • Walt Whitman (Turnpike);
  • Clara Barton (Turnpike);
  • John Fenwick (Turnpike);
  • Forked River (Parkway);
  • Monmouth (Parkway).

HMSHost will also spend $26.4 million to remodel buildings with such improvements as new dining areas and restrooms at service areas including:

  • Woodrow Wilson (Turnpike);
  • Richard Stockton (Turnpike);
  • Molly Pitcher (Turnpike);
  • James Fenimore Cooper (Turnpike);
  • Cheesequake (Parkway);
  • Montvale (Parkway).

Sunoco, meanwhile, will spend $90 million on capital improvements at 21 fuel service facilities on the two roads, as well as remodeling existing convenience stores. It will also build new convenience stores at the Parkway’s Brookdale North Service Area and the Turnpike’s Alexander Hamilton Service Area.

Sunoco also is examining the feasibility of a new fuel facility and convenience store along the Turnpike’s eastbound Newark Bay-Hudson County Extension.

“Having bright, modern facilities at every service area on two of the busiest toll roads in the U.S. will put the state of New Jersey and the NJTA in a better light to all who visit,” Transportation Commissioner Richard Hammer, who is also the chairman of the NJTA board, said in a statement. “And the new facilities are likely to draw more business, which would mean an increase in NJTA’s nontoll revenue. These improvements are not being made with public dollars, but they will have real public benefits.”

The agreements must be approved by the NJTA board of commissioners in a vote expected this month.

HMSHost’s contract is for 25 years plus a two-year construction period, while Sunoco’s contract is for 25 years. Most improvements would be made during the first seven years of the contracts, with the companies agreeing to make ongoing annual capital investments over the rest of the pacts’ lives. The HMSHost contract includes a mandatory rehabilitation of restroom facilities during the life of the contract, the governor’s office added.

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