It isn’t easy being the only one in town.
When it comes to rest stops that offer food, fuel, and retail, Montville is the only one without a twin on the opposite side of the highway even though it’s home to one of the most popular tourist attractions in Connecticut.
In 1968, when Eastern Connecticut’s four service plazas closed on the Connecticut Turnpike (now known as Interstate 395) due to lack of business , the Montville northbound plaza was converted to a state police office.
While Mobil reopened the Montville southbound plaza and both Plainfield plazas in 1989, the company failed to take over the Montville northbound facility.
In 2008, the Statewide Rest Area and Service Plaza Study Team said in their report that “reestablishment of the service plaza in Montville on I-395 northbound (now occupied by state police) is recommended to reduce pressure in parking deficits due to close proximity to the Eastern Connecticut entertainment and tourism district.”
A previous proposal would have incorporated the state police barracks into a 14,506-square-foot “over-the-highway” service plaza in Montville with northbound and southbound access.
The elevated plaza would have also included retail and food outlets along with a welcome center.
There would have been a combined total of 102 auto spaces and 70 truck spaces.
Each side of the highway would have its own gasoline and diesel fuel station.
This rest area would have replaced the existing Troop E state police building and the 3,513-square-foot Montville southbound plaza, with 6 gasoline pumps, 28 auto spaces and 9 truck spaces. The report concluded the southbound plaza was “too small and inadequate” and that such an expansion “may be welcome in this municipality”.
However, Project Service, LLC , the contractor responsible for renovating the state’s 23 service plazas, decided they would not follow those recommendations as they did not implement the over-the-highway concept anywhere.
There are no plans to reopen the northbound plaza even though it’s located south of the busy Route 2A interchange.
Despite major renovations, the small southbound plaza will not be expanded and no spaces will be added to its cramped parking lot.
When it reopens this summer, the Montville plaza will not mirror the large newly renovated food-court-like plazas in Milford on I-95 with multiple retail and food offerings.
Instead, it will mirror the much smaller rest areas in Plainfield with a Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts, Mobil gas station, and Mobil Mart.
The Montville plaza is not expected to provide public access to the nearby Cochegan Rock . The hiking and camping area is restricted to the Boy Scouts, due in part, to previous issues with vandalism .
Over the years, Montville’s service plaza has decreased amenities for its travelers.
In 1989, full-service gasoline was eliminated along with the auto repair facility.
In 2013, diesel fuel will be eliminated along with pay phones. Retail space will be downsized to make space for food tenants who have little room for indoor seating.
While renovations will give the Montville rest stop a much needed makeover, it’s obvious more needs to be done to grow for the future.
In 2005, 24,710 vehicles drove past the I-395 Montville southbound service plaza with about 1,375 stopping each day.
In 2020, about 24,080 vehicles will travel the same stretch of road with an estimated 1,900 stopping each day at the plaza.
It’s beneficial for everyone if more travelers made a pit stop in Montville since Project Service has a revenue sharing agreement with the State of Connecticut.