Media & Public Relations

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Carl DeFebo
Manager, Media & Public Relations
Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
Desk (717) 920-7176

June 07, 2007


Pa. Turnpike Opens First New
Service Plaza & Public-Access 'E-85' Pump

Facility opens in time for USGA's 2007 U.S. Open Championship, June 11-17.

HARRISBURG, PA (06/07/07; 1248)(readMedia)-- Officials from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, Harrisburg, Pa., HMSHost Corp., Bethesda, Md., and Sunoco Inc., Philadelphia, today celebrated the opening of the commonwealth's newest service plaza - the first of 18 across the Turnpike to be rebuilt or remodeled over the next four years as part of a $170 million redevelopment deal. Oakmont also became the first Turnpike stop in the nation to offer a pump for the sale of Ethanol E-85, a high-octane alternative fuel made of 85 percent ethyl/grain alcohol and 15 percent gasoline.

The Oakmont Service Plaza, which serves eastbound traffic on the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) near the Allegheny Valley Interchange (Exit 48), is the first travel plaza on the 537-mile toll-road system to be completely rebuilt as part of a distinctive service-plaza redevelopment plan being funded exclusively by private investment.

The new 14,800-square-foot plaza is more than 5,000 square-feet bigger than the old plaza, which closed last Sept. 6 and was demolished to make way for the new facility which opened May 23.

"We believe our customers are really going to love these bigger, better, brighter new service plazas," said Turnpike CEO Joe Brimmeier. "And, I am happy to say, not one cent of toll revenues, or any other public money for that matter, is being spent to build them. Actually, the whole project is being financed by the developers, HMSHost and Sunoco." Under the terms of a 30-year deal, HMSHost Corp. will invest $100 million to construct, operate and maintain the food-court eateries. The Turnpike expects combined gross sales at all 18 plazas will total $3.5 billion over the 30-year term. The Turnpike will receive a 4 to 4.5 percent share of gross plaza receipts as rent. Sunoco, in its deal, will invest $70 million to redevelop 18 service stations and convenience stores as part of a 30-year (maximum-term) contract. It will offer more modern fuel-pumping areas, more staffing, E-85 and perhaps other alternative fuels at all service stations it develops. It will pay the Turnpike 1 cent for each gallon of diesel and gasoline sold, plus 1 percent of gross convenience-store receipts.

Brimmeier said the partnership is critical since it allows the Turnpike to concentrate spending on highway improvements like total reconstruction and widening projects. "Our priority must be rebuilding and expanding the road for the safety of our customers," Brimmeier said. "This agreement allows the Commission to focus resources on vital roadway projects while at the same time providing bigger and better plazas to travelers."

The service plazas - some of which first opened in 1940 - have been remodeled and expanded over the years starting in the 1970s. The plazas can no longer efficiently serve the needs of today's travelers, considering the toll-road system is now used by more than 190 million vehicles per year.

Under the agreement, HMSHost and Sunoco will revitalize plazas with new, larger buildings that will house food courts with natural lighting and more varied food and merchandise offerings, full-service convenience stores and larger, brighter, "touch-free" restrooms. Other improvements include outdoor dining areas, landscaped grounds with pet walking paths, and state-of-the-industry technology and security systems. The buildings have been designed by a Pennsylvania architect and reflect architectural elements common to the state.

The Turnpike's Oakmont Service Plaza originally opened Dec. 26, 1951. The opening of the new Oakmont coincides with the start of the summer 2007 vacation season and in time for the 2007 U.S. Open Championship at Oakmont Country Club. Foodservice brands offered at the new Oakmont include Burger King, the Doggery, Hershey's Ice Cream, Quiznos and Starbucks. Sunoco's A-Plus convenience store is also situated inside the Oakmont's main service-plaza facility - as it will be at all new sites. (Smaller convenience stores are now available in the fuel-pumping area, separate from restaurants and restrooms in the main-plaza building.) Four more plazas (Allentown, Valley Forge, Sideling Hill and North Somerset) will be closed for a nine-month period beginning September 2007. Thereafter, the Turnpike, HMSHost and Sunoco will close, on average, four more service plazas a year for remodeling, with overall project completion in 2011. In all cases, the plan is to begin construction after Labor Day and reopen the new plazas before the following Memorial Day.

Three of the 21 plazas will be eliminated as part of the redevelopment. The Hempfield Service Plaza, Hempfield Twp., Westmoreland Co., was closed in January. Two plazas in Bensalem Twp., Bucks Co. - North Neshaminy and South Neshaminy - will be closed to accommodate upcoming construction projects (the I-95 link for the former and the Bensalem Slip Ramp for the latter). The South Neshaminy plaza is scheduled to close this July, while North Neshaminy is tentatively slated for a 2010 shut down.