RICHMOND, R.I. (WPRI) — Closed in 2011 due to budget cuts, the existing “Welcome Center” rest area for trucks on I-95 North between Exits 2 and 3 in Richmond will be reopening Friday morning thanks to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation whipping into action.
The outside was spruced up first. Maintenance workers for RIDOT have swept and restriped the parking lots, repaired guardrails, installed new signs, repaired overhead lighting, and cleared weeds and brush, and it took just about a week, the DOT’s Charles St. Martin said Thursday. Portable restrooms will be available for the Friday opening, but as work on the building itself continues, indoor restrooms will follow by the end of the month.
In September 2011, RIDOT and the center’s operator, the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, closed the center because of increased expenses at the transportation department, as well as “changes in tourism trends nationwide,” the agencies said in a news release at the time. Amenities like bathrooms could be gained through other locations, they said. Three full-time and three part-time employees were also terminated.
But since then — October 2015 — Rhode Island was awarded federal TIGER grant funding of $9 million to build a new travel plaza and transit hub, St. Martin said, and that is paving the way for reopening the welcome center.
Sen. Elaine Morgan (R-Richmond, Hopkinton) said Thursday she was thrilled to learn of the reopening. She also noted that the DOT is looking for volunteers to staff the center — part of keeping operating costs down.
The consensus from all concerned was that the reopened welcome center will help improve first impressions of Rhode Island for visitors coming north.
St. Martin noted that the reopening of the rest area will make it easier for truck drivers to take rest periods that are required by federal law.