The newly redeveloped travel plazas will offer expanded food concepts, a 24/7 Mountain State Market convenience store, outdoor dining options, expanded parking for tractor-trailers and passenger vehicles, electric vehicle charging stations, separate passenger vehicle and tractor-trailer fueling options, picnic spots and pet relief areas. (Rendering courtesy of the West Virginia Department of Transportation)
The West Virginia Parkways Authority approved a contract Feb. 23 for the demolition and renovation of the state's Beckley and Bluestone travel plazas, a project first announced by Gov. Jim Justice last November.
Paramount Builders LLC, in St. Albans, W. Va., was awarded the contract for $122.8 million.
"On behalf of the West Virginia Parkways Authority, I am excited that our Board has approved to award the demolition and construction contract to Paramount Builders," said Jeff Miller, executive director of the state agency. "This officially sets into motion the plan to bring world-class facilities to Southern West Virginia to showcase our beautiful state to the millions of travelers we see annually on the West Virginia Turnpike, most of whom are from out of state."
Both travel plazas closed Feb. 1 to begin the major renovation project, according to the West Virginia Department of Transportation (WV DOT), and each will be rebuilt from the ground up.
The Morton Travel Plaza near Burnwell, W. Va. will remain open until renovations to that facility begin in 2025.
The Parkways Authority plans to complete and sign the contract soon, and the builder is expected to be ready to demolish the facilities within the next month.
"To be able to partner with a West Virginia construction firm that has delivered so many quality projects around the state truly adds to the overall partnerships we have formed in working toward making this project a reality," explained Miller. "We look forward to opening these facilities to the public by the fourth quarter of 2024."
The newly redeveloped travel plazas will offer expanded food concepts, a 24/7 Mountain State Market convenience store, outdoor dining options, expanded parking for tractor-trailers and passenger vehicles, electric vehicle charging stations, separate passenger vehicle and tractor-trailer fueling options, picnic spots and pet relief areas.
The Beckley Travel Plaza will offer a drive-thru, increased restroom facilities and bus parking, plus enhanced Parkways Authority Tourist Information centers.
Survey Helps Plan Upgrades to Travel Plazas
Last May, the Parkways Authority approved the expenditure of $152 million spread over three fiscal years to revamp the Turnpike's travel plazas, noted WV DOT. Plans were based on results of a 2021 survey of Turnpike travelers. With more than 3,400 respondents, the survey results led the Parkways Authority to understand that the Turnpike travel plazas are far more than a quick break for the millions of visitors who regularly stop at one of the facilities. For some guests, taking a driving break at a travel plaza is part of a family tradition, especially for those folks who recall the "Glass House" designs of the 1950s.
For others, it is an opportunity to learn more about the state and buy authentic West Virginia-made crafts and products in the tourist information centers. In addition, truck drivers look to the travel plazas for safe and secure parking.
The survey also showed the Parkways Authority where its existing facilities have fallen short of visitor expectations, according to WV DOT.
Leisure travelers, attracted by West Virginia's scenic wonders, want new facilities that embrace the state's "wild and wonderful" terrain and provide a sense of always being in touch with nature. Commuters and road warriors on the Turnpike, in turn, long for drive-thru service and comfortable, quiet sitting areas for work and relaxation. More than 50 percent of commercial drivers felt the travel facilities suffered from a significant or severe shortage of truck parking.
Finally, everyone that responded to the survey wished for improved restrooms.
"Each year, 3.3 million people, double the population of West Virginia, visit our Turnpike travel plazas," Gov. Justice said last fall. "Now we're going to have the best facilities that showcase everything that West Virginia has to offer, because we want all 3.3 million people to walk away with a positive image of our great state."
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