Vermont lawmakers pursue public-private partnership to build welcome center

By Clarissa Kell-Holland, Land Line staff writer | 8/24/2012

More than three years after Vermont closed four rest areas because of a $60 million budget shortfall, the state is exploring a public-private partnership as an option to build a new welcome center on Interstate 89 in Randolph.

Ed von Turkovich, director of business development for Vermont’s Department of Buildings and General Services, told Land Line that the state’s Joint Transportation Oversight Committee voted to explore a possible public-private partnership as a way to pay for a proposed welcome center. The center would be at exit 4 on Interstate 89 in Randolph.

“What we are trying to do is avoid the need to invest public funds to build the state rest area at Randolph by entering into a public-private partnership,” von Turkovich said. “Defraying the expenses would be a huge help for us to keep the rest areas open.”

He said the terms that the state is negotiating with the developer include truck parking.

Von Turkovich said the developer who owns the 167 acres where the proposed welcome center would be located is Jesse “Sam” Sammis, chairman of the New England Land Co. Sammis has a master plan for the location, which also includes a hotel and conference center, and some other buildings that he’s hoping to build at some point.

“In discussions with the state, Sammis offered to build a replacement for the visitor’s center we have in Randolph on I-89 southbound,” von Turkovich said. “We closed I-89 northbound a few years ago during the budget crunch. We stranded many northbound visitors, as well as truckers, that used that stop.”

He said if the proposal is accepted and the permits are obtained, the welcome center would be built using the guidelines of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

“I think it’s too early to say how many number of truck parking spaces we will have, but we are very sensitive to the needs of the trucking industry,” von Turkovich said. “We are going to make sure that whatever we do there not only meets the needs of the traveling public, but also of the truckers that need a safe place to layover.”

In addition, von Turkovich said the Vermont Agency of Transportation may keep the parking lot open for truckers at the existing visitor center if the new one is built. 

“There is a deficit of truck parking layover areas in that stretch of the corridor and they are contemplating that they would leave that parking lot open,” he said.

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