Florida's Turnpike plazas getting $163 million makeover

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - You may have noticed construction at several stops along Florida's Turnpike. A turnpike spokesperson says it's intended to make your travels safe, speedy and convenient.

All eight plazas along the turnpike are getting a makeover for the first time in three decades in a multi-million dollar overhaul. "As the years have progressed, the amount of traffic that we've seen has increased, and we needed to get people more efficiently in and out of the service plazas, so they could get the services, the food, the restaurant facilities much more easily," explained Chad Huff, the Public Information Manager for Florida's Turnpike.

As construction continues, the West Palm Beach plaza has been outfitted with service stations and air conditioned restrooms so as not to disrupt travelers.

Huff says about 30 million people use the plazas each year. The stops are located at different points along the 312-mile turnpike mainline. The construction is scheduled at different times in different locations in an effort to make things easier for users. 

For example, the Pompano plaza was completed the first week of June and the West Palm Beach plaza had construction start more recently. "We are doing things like staggering our construction where we are rebuilding one plaza, we are leaving the next one alone, so there is one within like a 30 or 40 mile state that has all services available," Huff said.

The locations are being expanded to house more restrooms, restaurants and other facilities. The West Palm Beach plaza will have 3,000 square feet of additional restaurant space.

The buildings are being constructed to be LEED certified, meaning they are being held to strict environmental standards. When complete, the West Palm Beach plaza is expected to use 23 percent less energy than the previous buildings. "All the windows are treated for UV light, so they filter out the harmful affects of the light to help keep the temperature inside the plaza as cool as possible while maintaining an open area that takes advantage of the natural light that's available," Huff explained. 

Each plaza will have facilities for pets and a theme has been selected for each location. For example, the Pompano location is "water". The West Palm Beach location is "land".

Huff says, the "land" theme will mean obvious visual elements will be placed around the facility. "It will have extensive landscaping on the inside and on the out and the landscaping is being done with native species that require less maintenance, less fertilizer if you will, that sort of thing, to help reduce on the amount of maintenance and that sort of thing," Huff explained.

In all, the project is expected to cost $163 million. Huff says none of it comes from taxpayer dollars, but instead from toll fees and capital by the project's bid's winner, Areas, USA. A recent press release from Areas, USA says more than $100 million in labor income will be produced by the contract.

The West Palm Beach plaza is expected to be complete by the end of 2012. Construction at all eight plaza locations is expected to be finished by 2015.

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