A lot of things have changed since 1956 and finally, an Indiana Toll Road travel plaza is among them.
“The old travel plazas were from a bygone era,” said Nicolas Barr, CEO of the Indiana Toll Road Concession Company.
Over the next 18 months, all four pairs of travel plazas will be demolished and rebuilt. The first two travel plazas are now complete and the occasion was marked today with ribbon cutting ceremonies in Portage (mile marker 22).
“You can come in, get some Sunoco Ultra Blend fuel, come in have restaurant quality food they can enjoy off the grill, or get something to go when they would like that,” said Jeamy Molina with Sunoco LP.
The Portage travel plazas are the first to be downsized from full service restaurant operations to ‘convenience stores.’ Both used to house the Hardees franchise.
Today, you could microwave your own hamburger or grab a self-service hot dog off the rollers, but you could also approach the counter and have food made to order on a grill.
“When you say convenience store, I don't think it does this place justice. It’s got a lot of food offerings and a lot of services so this is going to meet the traveling public’s needs a lot more than just a convenience store,” said Dan Bearss, Executive Director with the Northern Indiana Tourism Development Commission.
The new plaza has free WiFi and 15 electrical outlets in the 25 seat dining room.
While tourist information is now shown on flat screen TV’s it is also still available-old school-in brochures.
The ITRCC is spending $70 million on the plaza replacement project. “It’s really about re-lifting up the image of the toll road you know,” said Nicolas Barr. “We’re pleased to be putting a modern aesthetics, bringing new food, new technology to the toll road, we think it’s important.”
The Rolling Prairie plaza recently closed for reconstruction. The Howe plaza should be the next project completed—by the 4th of July. The Howe plaza will be the full sized, full service restaurant version.