Gov. Chris Christie announced Wednesday that his administration inked a deal with two partners to rehabilitate rest areas along the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike – including two in the local area – at no cost to taxpayers.
Under an agreement reached by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTA), HMSHost and Sunoco, the two private companies will make more than $250 million in capital improvements to the service area buildings and facilities, at no cost to the NJTA, in exchange for new contracts to continue operating the food and fuel concessions on the turnpike and parkway for the next 25 years.
The improvements will cover upgrades at the Forked River and Monmouth rest areas, among others across the state.
“This agreement will provide drivers with the safest, cleanest, modern highway rest stops up and down the Turnpike and Parkway, without spending any of their tax and toll dollars, while continuing to ensure the most affordable fuel in the region for the next few decades ,” Christie said. “It represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enlist our proven partners in the cause of replacing service area facilities as old as the toll roads themselves with pleasant, state-of-the-art facilities for tens of millions of people to rest, grab a bite, fill up, then head back out to the road refreshed and ready to safely reach their destinations.”
Under the agreement, HMSHost will replace the buildings at the the Forked River and Monmouth service areas on the Parkway. All of those buildings have been in service since the mid-1950s, shortly after the toll roads opened to traffic, and are in poor condition, administration officials said. The new buildings will total 138,300 square feet and cost between $10 million and $15 million apiece. The Thomas Edison and Monmouth facilities are the first ones scheduled to be replaced. Construction on those two will begin next year and is expected to be completed in 2019.
In addition to committing $90 million on capital improvements at 21 fuel service facilities on the Turnpike and Parkway, and to remodeling its existing convenience stores, Sunoco agreed to build new convenience stores at the Brookdale North Service Area on the Parkway and the Alexander Hamilton Service Area on the Turnpike. If feasible, Sunoco will also build a new fuel service facility and convenience store along the eastbound Newark Bay-Hudson County Extension of the Turnpike.
The agreements with HMSHost and Sunoco still need to be approved by the NJTA Board of Commissioners. The board is expected to vote on them this month. Both contracts would become effective shortly after they are approved. The contract with HMSHost is for 25 years, plus a two-year construction period. The contract with Sunoco is for 25 years.
Most of the capital improvements will be made during the first seven years of the contracts. HMSHost and Sunoco also agreed to make ongoing annual capital investments over the life of the contracts. The HMSHost agreement obligates the company to rehabilitate the restroom facilities again during the life of the contract.