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Big update coming on state turnpike with rebuild of travel plazas

CHARLESTON — The state Parkways Authority is on the verge of authorizing a more than $100 million redevelopment of the three travel plazas on the West Virginia Turnpike.

Parkways is working with internationally known Areas USA, which will be the new lease operator of the travel plazas beginning next February.

Part of that agreement calls for the redevelopment of the travel plazas at Bluestone in Mercer County, Beckley near Tamarack and the Morton Travel Plaza along Paint Creek in Kanawha County.

The Parkways Authority gave Parkways Executive Director Jeff Miller the OK to sign the final lease agreement during a meeting last week.

Miller said that new agreement focuses on the rebuild. He said the Bluestone and Beckley travel plazas will close in February.

“Beginning Feb. 1 and it will be an estimated 20 to 22 months of construction and we’re looking at the end of 2024 for opening,” Miller said.

Work will begin at the Morton facility after the other two are up and operating. The entire project could last up to five years.

Miller said the current travel plazas have been around for more than 30 years. He said it’s time for a whole new look.

“It’s an opportunity for us to highlight our tourist information centers, to highlight Tamarack and just promote the state in general,” Miller said, adding the designation of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in nearby Fayette County makes the rebuild even more important.

The new travel plaza at Beckley will be the centerpiece. Once finished it will have several restaurant choices, including Wendy’s, Starbucks, Popeyes, a 24-hour convenience-type store along with outdoor dining options with a permanent food truck-looking structure.

The Morton Travel Plaza is near the Paint Creek exit in Kanawha County.

Miller said Beckley will also have 50 additional parking spaces for tractor-trailers and 16 electric vehicle charging stations.

“It’s a phenomenal design,” Miller said. “It’s a whole site redevelopment.”

The work will also include the replacing of fuel tanks at the site.

Bluestone and Morton will have similar replacements of fuel tanks along with eight EV stations, the 24-hour convenience store and more than one restaurant option.

The Parkways Authority has been putting away money for several years to pay for the project, Miller said.

“They’ve set aside into a capital account money for the redevelopment of the travel plazas and we were able, with Gov. Justice’s blessing, to go down this path,” Miller said.

The entire project is expected to exceed $132 million.

Parkways and Areas USA have been in meetings for most of this year with architects. The plans are expected to be close to final by October. Parkways will then put out an RFP and take in construction bids for the work in time for a February start.

Miller said the authority has ongoing maintenance expenses to keep the three plazas in acceptable condition.

“We spent almost $1 million a year in maintenance on those facilities. So this will help alleviate some of that ongoing maintenance expense that we have,” he said.

Motorists will be encouraged to visit Tamarack for restroom facilities and eating options while the Beckley plaza is closed.