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West Virginia is demolishing two travel plazas along its turnpike to create modern ones, adding a total of 45 new truck parking places, announced Gov. Jim Justice.
Located between Princeton and Charleston, the West Virginia Turnpike is a four-lane tolled highway that is 88 miles long and winds up steep mountain terrain with three main travel plazas for drivers to eat, rest and refuel.
“Each year 3.3 million people, double the population of West Virginia, visit our WV Turnpike travel plazas,” Justice said Nov. 18. “This is our chance to show them ‘Almost Heaven, West Virginia.’ So we better not screw it up, and now we’re going to have the best facilities that showcase everything that West Virginia has to offer.”
A rendering of the fuel station at the Bluestone Travel Plaza. (Gov. Jim Justice via Flickr)
West Virginia’s national highway system includes the turnpike (portions of Interstates 77 and 64), the Appalachian Development Highway System and other major roadways. The turnpike also owns 8% of the state’s 1,294 bridges within its part of the national highway system.
Starting Feb. 1, Beckley and Bluestone travel plazas will be closed on the turnpike and completely rebuilt from the ground up since plans were approved Nov. 16 by the West Virginia Parkways Authority. The project is part of a $152 million expenditure over three fiscal years to modernize three aging travel plazas.
The turnpike is a separate operating entity. It generates its own funds for daily operations and capital improvements using tolls to pay for 95% of daily operations and funds from travel plazas and tourist information centers to generate the remaining 5% of needed revenue. During the 2019 fiscal year, the turnpike brought in $131 million from tolls and $7 million from concessions and other sources.
Construction on the two travel plazas is scheduled for completion in the last quarter of 2024. The turnpike’s Morton Travel Plaza will remain open until renovations start in 2025.
“By the end of 2024, motorists along the West Virginia Turnpike will be able to enjoy new, modern travel plazas that will provide the public a wonderful service experience and a safe area to rest, all while enjoying expanded food offerings and fueling before getting back on the road,” remarked Jeff Miller, West Virginia Parkways Authority executive director.
The renovation project arose after a 2021 survey of 3,400 travelers along the turnpike, including truck drivers who mentioned they sought safe, secure parking there.
“Commuters and road warriors wanted drive-thru service and comfortable, quiet sitting areas for work and relaxation. Over 50% of commercial drivers felt there was a significant or severe shortage of truck parking. All respondents wanted improved restrooms,” according to the governor’s office.
According to a request for proposals to renovate the travel plazas, turnpike officials noted that bids should provide special features for truck drivers, including giving consideration for designated lounges with couches, tables, recreation facilities and televisions as well as separate restrooms with personal lockers and showers. Other potential additions to consider included coin-operated washers and dryers. Bidders also were instructed to detail specific trucker amenities proposed for the sites.
Once complete, the new travel plazas will offer expanded food choices, a 24/7 convenience store, outdoor dining and picnic options, pet relief areas and electric vehicle charging. Parking will be increased for passenger vehicles and tractor trailers as well as separate vehicle and tractor trailer fueling options.
Unveiled site plans show the new Beckley site with 165 truck parking places (35 more than today) and Bluestone with 79 trucking parking slots (up by 10 spaces).
A rendering of the map for the Beckley Travel Plaza (Gov. Jim Justice via Flickr)
In announcing the plans, Justice declared his excitement to break ground next year on both sites. He said West Virginia officials “want all 3.3 million people to walk away [from the newly completed facilities] with a positive image of our great state.”
Thanking the governor for his support, Miller said, “This is another example of Gov. Justice’s vision to promote West Virginia to the nation.”