Chick-fil-A, Shake Shack are coming to these renovated NYS Thruway rest stops in March
Three new service areas along New York’s 570-mile superhighway are set to reopen in March, with Chick-fil-A and Shake Shack as likely restaurant offerings for tourists and commuters.
The New York Thruway Authority announced the $300 million service area renovation project last summer, with reconstruction or renovation planned at all 27 service areas along the New York State Thruway, which haven’t been fully renovated since the 1990s.
Ten of those have since closed and are slated to reopen this year. The rest will close on a rolling basis – no two consecutive stops in either direction will be closed at the same time – until 2025, when the project is set to reach completion.
Twenty-three of the service areas will be completely rebuilt, while four will be renovated.
Some of the locations in the first phase of construction were torn down to their concrete foundations in recent months, leaving vacant slabs next to their fuel stations. The fuel stations are and will remain open for business at every site amid the renovation project.
The vacant slabs have been repopulated at some service areas with steel framing in preparation for a brand new service area building, complete with new restaurants and amenities, including:
24/7 access to food and fuel
Services like call-ahead ordering and drive-thrus
Exterior seating with access to Taste NY farm markets
Picnic and play areas
Pet walking areas with comfort stations
"Empire (owned by Applegreen) has contractors at all 10 closed locations, working in a variety of weather conditions and making progress," said Thruway Authority spokesperson Jennifer Givner on Tuesday.
She added that global COVID-related supply chain issues could impact the project timeline, and that the Thruway Authority would update customers on any changes as service area opening dates approach.
More on the Thruway project: Some Thruway rest stops to close July 29 for renovations. Here's what to know.
Which locations are opening first?
The service areas at Junius Ponds, in the Finger Lakes region; Chittenango, near Syracuse, and Indian Castle, east of Utica, will be finished first, and are estimated to open in March, according to the Thruway Authority’s website.
The others set to reopen in 2022 are:
Iroquois, near Utica (July 2022)
Ardsley, near Yonkers (July 2022)
Clarence, near Buffalo (August 2022)
New Baltimore, in the Hudson Valley (September 2022)
Plattekill, in the Hudson Valley (September 2022)
Clifton Springs, in the Finger Lakes (September 2022)
Pembroke, near Buffalo (October 2022)
The rest will reopen between 2023 and 2025.
What do we know about the restaurants?
Chick-fil-A, the popular fast food chain often embroiled in controversy for past donations to charities opposed to LGBTQ+ rights, announced a new restaurant in the Chittenango service area.
Chittenango’s service area will also feature a Starbucks drive-thru and an Applegreen Market Store.
Shake Shack, a global burger chain that evolved from a singular New York City hot dog cart in 2001, will build a restaurant at the Junius Ponds service area, in addition to a Starbucks drive-thru and Applegreen Market Store, according to the Thruway Authority’s website.
Shake Shack is also slated to build at five other Thruway service areas, including (west to east) Angola, Clifton Springs, New Baltimore, Ramapo and Sloatsburg.
Empire State Thruway Partners/Applegreen would release further information on which restaurants are confirmed at which service areas in the coming months, Givner said.
Other restaurants and cafes that will build at Thruway rest areas include:
Who’s paying for this?
The project won’t come as a hit to taxpayers.
The project is funded through public-private partnership with Empire State Thruway Partners, a consortium of companies was awarded the contract after a competitive bidding process.
The facilities' new leaseholder, Irish convenience store chain Applegreen, took over ownership of the consortium and plans to spend $450 million — $300 million on the overhaul plus $150 million for upkeep and rent — for the right to operate the facilities.
Applegreen will keep the vast majority of the revenue from their restaurants and shops located inside the service areas.
What’s the latest on blind vendors' push for business?
New York's blind and visually impaired vendors have historically managed vending machines, gift shops or convenience stores at the Thruway's service areas through the state’s Business Enterprise Program, which offers job training for blind or visually impaired individuals.
In 2019, the Thruway Authority made clear blind business owners would get first crack at operating self-service vending machines as plans for the service area renovation project moved ahead.
But the Thruway Authority signaled last spring that the new service areas may not include vending machines, and instead told vendors they could manage ATMs at all 27 sites or E-ZPass kiosks and coin-operated laundry at some sites.
More on vending debate: Blind vendors battling New York Thruway over plans for overhauled rest stops
This angered vendors who argued the Authority was in violation of state law by depriving them of lucrative business opportunities in the vending machines. Twelve vendors issued a complaint to the state’s Commission for the Blind on the matter last summer.
Under state law, every state property should provide locations for at least one vending facility to be operated by a blind vendor, where feasible.
The requirement is laid out in a state law that's based on a similar federal law known as the Randolph-Sheppard Act. The state law was expanded in 2010 to make clear Thruway Authority properties, including the rest areas, are subject to it.
The vendors are having “ongoing conversations” with the state and Applegreen on this issue, said Karen Blachowicz, the President of the American Council of the Blind of New York and the chairperson of the New York Elected Committee of Blind Vendors.
Blachowicz said she couldn’t comment further on the substance of the discussions, but added that she’s “thrilled” to see Gov. Kathy Hochul “express interest in and dedication to the Business Enterprise Program.”
Hochul announced her intention to expand that program in her State of the State proposals earlier this month.
"Empire State Thruway Partners (owned by Applegreen) is engaged in productive discussions about vending opportunities with blind vendors," the Thruway Authority's Givner said on Tuesday, adding that the terms of any agreement will be announced at a later date.
Includes reporting from Jon Campbell.
Sarah Taddeo is an enterprise reporter for USA Today Network's New York State Team. Got a story tip or comment? Contact Sarah at STADDEO@Gannett.com or (585) 258-2774. Follow her on Twitter @Sjtaddeo. This coverage is only possible with support from our readers. Please consider becoming a digital subscriber.
This article originally appeared on New York State Team: Chick-fil-A, Shake Shack coming to NYS Thruway rest stops in March