I’m coming right out and saying it: The new rest areas on the New York State Thruway SUCK!
I happened to stop in one of the newly opened rest areas on my way to Buffalo the other day. It felt ridiculously tight. There was only one double door at the entrance, and people were coming in and out and getting in each other’s way. The old rest areas had at least two sets of double doors. But I supposed downsizing makes sense, because Covid is over and people love getting crowded next to each other, and having tight entrances and exits makes it easy to escape a fire or a shooter.
As soon as I got inside the doors, I ran smack into the line at Starbucks. I tried to excuse myself but got accused of trying to budge the line. The chairs and eating area share the same corridor as the route to the restrooms, so you can bump into someone’s back as they’re about to bite into their sandwich. There was a single, narrow archway that led to both the men’s and women’s rooms. You have to turn sideways to get past oncoming traffic. The old rest areas had separate entrances for men’s and women’s restrooms.
I’ve heard the women’s restrooms are skimpy on the number of stalls. I believe it, because the men’s restroom had four urinals and three stalls, and to reach them you had to walk past another tight space where the sinks are located. And what a surprise: there were people using the sinks, making the space that much harder to navigate.
Who the hell designed these rest areas and what could they have been thinking?
On its website, the Thruway Authority states that the Empire State Thruway Partners (presumably a group of small, thin people who don’t need to pee very often) was awarded a 33-year contract to rebuild and operate the service areas. A company called Applegreen, based out of Ireland, is supervising operations for the $450 million project. Applegreen must have made some estimating errors, not only in design dimensions but also in budget. It’s now seeking a $260 million dollar bailout to finish the project.
Pretty much everyone hates the new rest areas and many question why we even needed them. The old ones seemed fine to me. NYS Assemblymember Harry Bronson said, “I am not impressed at all with what has been built thus far. The design is horrible and not conducive to meeting all of the functionalities of a rest stop, which is inclusive of taking some time to travel and rest before getting back on the road.”
The Thruway Authority says to calm down, that everything is going to be fine because the plans are for “different levels of service for each service area location based on sales history and traffic data over the last 10 years, as well as current services offered to the traveling public and services they’d like to see in the future.”
So some rest areas will be bigger. Given what I’ve seen so far, and the amount of trust I have in the “Authority,” I wouldn’t be surprised if the bigger rest areas will equate to bigger frustration.
On the way back from Buffalo, I drove straight through, no stops.