The new $30 million Maryland House Travel Plaza along I-95 near Aberdeen will officially open to the public by midnight Thursday, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority and plaza manager Areas USA.
Around 6 p.m., last-minute details were being taken care of, such as placing signs and moving construction barrels, Cheryl Sparks of the Maryland Transportation Authority said Thursday evening. The new plaza could open earlier than midnight, depending when those details are finished, she said.
With the Maryland House opening, the Chesapeake House Travel Plaza on I-95 in Cecil County will close for reconstruction sometime Friday morning, Sparks said. Highway signs will notify motorists of the changes.
The new 42,000-square-foot Maryland House features food from Wendy's, Phillips Seafood, Dunkin' Donuts, Jerry's Subs & Pizza, Currito, Nathan's Famous, Auntie Anne's and Carvel.
The new 5,700-square-foot A Plus convenience store at the Sunoco high-speed fueling station features food from Elevation Burger.
Sparks said the Dunkin Donuts, convenience store, restrooms and gas station would open Thursday night, with all other food concepts opening at 10 a.m.
The Maryland House also includes the following amenities: contemporary design and natural lighting; additional bus parking and indoor/outdoor seating; free Wi-Fi; modern restroom facilities and equipment; LEED certified building with "green" features; a staffed Welcome Center; and a Kids Korner seating area.
Through a partnership with the MDTA, Areas USA is investing approximately $56 million to redesign and rebuild the Maryland House and Chesapeake House travel plazas on the JFK Memorial Highway, MDTA officials said.
At a preview event Monday, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown; U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin; Areas USA CEO Xavier Rabell; Transportation Secretary James T. Smith Jr.; private sector representatives; and other state and local officials toured the new Maryland House.
"It's an iconic symbol along this heavily-traveled I-95 corridor and we have a lot to be proud of," Brown said Monday while standing in front of the brick-and-glass, M-shaped building, a stark change from the former colonial-style Maryland House main building that opened half a century ago.
Smith said Monday the new building shows how much has changed since the original was completed in 1963.
The millions of visitors "expect the best in service, convenience and food quality and selection, and they are going to get it here," he said.
"It's almost too beautiful to call it a rest stop," he said, adding its welcoming presence "truly fits the name 'Maryland House.'"
Areas USA will operate and maintain the travel plazas through 2047, while the MDTA retains ownership and oversight of the plazas.