After being off-limits to visitors for more than a year, the Maryland House Travel Plaza on I-95 is expected to re-open later this month.
The 50-year-old travel plaza, located just south of Aberdeen on the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway, has been closed since September 2012, while it is being replaced with a roomier and, based on the plans, a more modern-looking facility.
The Maryland Transportation Authority, which operates the highway, is expecting the new plaza to open in mid-January, spokeswoman Kelly Melhem said.
MDTA has scheduled a special "sneak peek" of the new Maryland House this coming Monday, Jan. 13, that will be hosted by Lt. Anthony Brown and members of the transportation authority and will also feature a ribbon cutting.
The replacement facility is part of a $56 million project to upgrade both Maryland House and Chesapeake House, in Cecil County. Chesapeake House will shut down after Maryland House re-opens for the construction, Melhem said.
The new Maryland House will include a handful of new concessions, including Phillips Seafood, Jerry's Subs and Pizza, Wendy's, Currito Burrito, Dunkin' Donuts, Carvel Ice Cream and Auntie Anne's Pretzels.
It will feature a contemporary design, additional bus parking, free wireless Internet, a staffed welcome center and a convenience store inside a Sunoco gas station, Melhem said.
The building will "have a very open feel, very airy, a lot of natural light being used," Melhem said. "It will be a whole new experience for visitors when they stop by."
About 5 million visitors pass through the two I-95 plazas in Maryland north of Baltimore each year, Melhem said.
The project has stayed on budget, with the Harford plaza costing about $30 million. The Chesapeake House replacement has an estimated cost of $26 million, based upon figures previously state by MDTA.
The replacement of the two travel plazas is a public-private partnership with Areas USA, with the state retaining ownership and oversight of both plazas and Areas USA operating and maintaining them through 2047.
The state estimates it will get more than $400 million in revenue over that time period.
The deal between MDTA and Areas USA required approval of the state Board of Public Works and review by the General Assembly.