New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway rest stops getting makeover

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Anthony Johnson reports on the soon-to-be refurbished rest stops. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

New Jersey's aging rest stops along the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway are about to get a much-needed makeover.

Governor Chris Christie announced that 16 service areas will be replaced or refurbished, without the use of any toll or tax dollars.

The Republican governor made the announcement Wednesday at the Monmouth travel plaza in Wall Township, saying the state has agreed to give Sunoco and food service firm HMSHost a 25-year contract in exchange for $250 million in renovations.

Many of the plazas date back to the 1950s and need newer facilities. Christie said the work would be done by 2024 and that there could be some closures, but he didn't offer specifics.

"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. "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."

Under the agreement, HMSHost will replace the buildings at the Vince Lombardi, Thomas Edison, Joyce Kilmer, Walt Whitman, Clara Barton, and John Fenwick service areas on the Turnpike and the Forked River and Monmouth service areas on the Parkway.

The new buildings will total 138,300 square feet and cost between $10 million and $15 million apiece. The Thomas Edison and Monmouth facilities are the first ones scheduled to be replaced, with construction beginning next year and an expected completion date in 2019.

HMSHost agreed to invest an additional $26.4 million to remodel the Woodrow Wilson, Richard Stockton, Molly Pitcher, and James Fenimore Cooper service areas on the Turnpike and the Cheesequake and Montvale service areas on the Parkway. At most of those facilities, the work will involve the construction of open, natural-light dining areas and new restroom facilities.

The agreements with HMSHost and Sunoco still need to be approved by the NJTA Board of Commissioners, which is expected to vote on them this month.

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