The New York State Thruway Authority board of directors has approved the selection of Empire State Thruway Partners to redevelop the 27 service areas located on the Thruway. The company was selected from bids received in response to a request for proposals, with a winning bid of $450 million.
The service areas were built in the 1950s, with the last significant redevelopment taking place in the 1990s, officials said.
“The Thruway is a vital connector for interstate commerce and its service areas provide motorists with essential travel amenities that allow them to reach their destinations safely,” said Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew Driscoll in a statement last week. “The upgrades planned with this redevelopment project include innovative, modern initiatives to improve the customer experience for the tens of thousands of travelers who use the service areas every day.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the initiative to reimagine the Thruway service areas in his 2018 State of the State address. Empire State Thruway Partners’ plan is to rebuild 23 of the 27 service area restaurant buildings and provide significant renovations and upgrades to the remaining four.
The contract with Empire State Thruway Partners includes a 33-year term, with two phases of construction. Phase one includes 16 service areas with staged reconstruction expected to begin in 2021. Phase two includes 11 service areas with renovations expected to begin in 2023. No two consecutive service areas in the same direction of travel will be closed for renovations at the same time, officials said.
New amenities at the service areas include exterior seating with access to Taste NY farm markets, picnic areas, play areas and pet walking areas with comfort stations; business centers available at designated service areas and enhanced services such as call-ahead ordering, kiosks and drive-thru service at most locations.
Additional services proposed include a virtual welcome and tourism centers, virtual Thruway assistant and travel counselors at select locations, as well as food trucks and enclosed climate-controlled pet areas.
Empire State Thruway Partners also has proposed new amenities for the commercial trucking industry including increased truck parking system-wide and shower and laundry facilities, fitness center and healthy snacks.
Some 250 million vehicles travel the thruway system annually and service areas are open 24 hours a day. The Thruway is scheduled to convert to an entirely cashless tolling system by the end of 2020.