|COMMISSION NEWS RELEASE|
|Pa. Turnpike Marks Reopening of Historic South Midway Service Plaza
Unlike all other rebuilt plazas, this one keeps original charm and curb appeal.
|The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission celebrated the reopening of the South Midway Service Plaza in Bedford County this afternoon, just in time for Memorial Day weekend, the traditional kickoff of the summer travel season. And though it marks the 14th of 17 Turnpike rest stops across the state to be reconstructed since 2007, South Midway has a unique distinction: It looks much like it did when it originally opened more than 72 years ago – at least from the outside.
The South Midway Service Plaza, located at milepost 147, about one mile east of the Bedford Interchange (#146), serves eastbound traffic on the Interstate-76 mainline. Unlike other Turnpike service plazas that have been torn down and replaced with a modern facility, South Midway was restored to look a lot like it did when it accepted its first guests on Oct. 1, 1940. On the inside, it’s been expanded and modernized to offer amenities similar to the Turnpike’s new plazas.
“We’ve preserved the charm and appeal of the South Midway facility with a historically sensitive reconstruction,” said Turnpike Chief Operating Officer Craig Shuey. “The façade looks identical to its ancestor. But the restored South Midway is more spacious with amenities such as a food court, more food selections, contemporary restroom facilities and some unique features that pay homage to its origins.”
While the new South Midway doesn’t exactly mirror the original one, it recognizes the roots of this iconic rest stop and portrays the origins of these structures. Visitors can find several features to remind them of the heyday of Turnpike travel when the plazas were destinations themselves, including:
An intriguing artifact displayed outside the plaza’s main entry is a piece of the original concrete roadway from 1940 – harvested from the abandoned Turnpike near Breezewood – along with a marker explaining the methods used to build “America’s First Superhighway.”
Inside the plaza, customers will find concessions including Starbucks, Auntie Anne’s, Steak ‘n Shake and Sbarro’s. The plaza will also feature a Sunoco A-Plus Mini-Mart under the same roof and new fueling areas.
The plaza overhauls were made possible by a 30-year, public-private redevelopment initiative launched in 2006 when the Turnpike finalized agreements with Bethesda, Md.-based HMSHost Corp. and Sunoco Inc. of Philadelphia. Under the contracts, HMSHost Corp. committed $100 million to rebuild 17 plazas, and Sunoco is investing $70 million to redevelop the service stations and convenience stores.
“HMSHost is proud of our role in transforming the travel plazas across America’s First Superhighway, and South Midway is the ‘stand-out’ among them all,” said HMSHost President and CEO Tom Fricke. “This plaza is a combination of modern convenience with old fashion appeal, and I think Turnpike travelers will thoroughly enjoy the blending of the two.”
South Midway — which actually reopened to customers on May 17 — is one of two Turnpike rest stops to reopen last week. The Highspire Service Plaza at milepost 250 eastbound in Dauphin County reopened May 15. Both plazas had closed Sept. 4, 2012.
“We are excited to be a part of the unique and impressive South Midway project,” said Joe McGinn, Sunoco’s manager of public affairs. “This newly rebuilt location gives Sunoco customers an additional Sunoco APlus location to purchase their fuel and snack needs.”
With the completion of South Midway and Highspire, only three Turnpike service plazas have yet to be reconstructed: North Midway in Bedford County and Peter J. Camiel and Valley Forge both in Chester County. The plan is to close North Midway in September 2014 and to reopen it in May 2015. The Camiel Service Plaza will remain open during staged renovations which will begin in September 2013 and should be completed in December 2015. Reconstruction of the Valley Forge Service Plaza will be coordinated with the Turnpike widening project in that area and is expected to begin in March 2014.
Customers can download a free Service Plaza reference booklet from the Pa. Turnpike's website at www.paturnpike.com.