An antiquated 53-year-old rest area still greets weary travelers minutes after they drive over the Connecticut border, in North Stonington. The facility, which features a Connecticut Welcome Center, captures travelers coming from Rhode Island. It is one of the only rest areas on this stretch of Interstate 95 since the closure of Rhode Island’s Welcome Center in Richmond .
It’s certainly time for a makeover to the aging North Stonington Rest Area and Welcome Center whose life has also been threatened .
In a Connecticut Rest Area and Service Plaza Study report , it was recommended the facility be expanded from its present 3,527 square feet to 7,841 square feet.
The expansion would include a larger and brighter lobby, upgraded welcome center, and bigger restrooms.
“The lobby has low ceilings and feels undersized for ample queuing for the vending, restrooms, and visitor information functions,” the report stated.
“Despite the glass entry doors on both sides, the lobby could be better lit and more spacious. The welcome center is also dark; however it contains a good selection of brochures, materials and displays which includes a wall mural and carousel horse.”
State tourism staff is available daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Memorial Day to Labor Day and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Labor Day to Memorial Day.
The restrooms are so small that, according to the site foreman, “restrooms are not adequate for both sexes when several buses arrive at once. At times, women are allowed to use both restrooms and men are asked to use the exterior porta-potties.”
Other suggested improvements include increasing safety for pedestrians and vehicles and adding ATM’s and Wi-Fi service.
The report came out before the removal of all pay telephones from rest areas but surely this is an amenity that should be brought back for those without working cell phones.
The report, however, offered many compliments to the North Stonington Rest Area and Welcome Center.
“Site elements and signage have a common brown color theme that unifies the site…The building exterior has an appropriate New England character, with sloped wood-shingled roofs, stone exterior, painted wood trim, and copper gutters. Entries to the building are well-defined and well-landscaped with roof overhangs over the main entry doors.”
Also mentioned were the positive aspects of having segmented car and truck parking, each with its own entrance into the building.
The report concluded by stating “With improvements to the building interior (especially the lobby) this would be an excellent rest area model.”
While federal law prohibits food and fuel services from being added to highways that accept federal highway funds; our legislators should work hard to get an exemption made so that improvements and ongoing maintenance are paid for by a private company, not the state taxpayer’s.