It didn't take long for motorists to begin filling the new Hartford Welcome Center.
After all there are no other rest areas off the south bound lane of Interstate 91 for miles. The location, just south of the I-89 exchange, is a perfect stop for people and their pooches from all over. "We had to keep getting off the road. I was very excited to see that there was one because I had to let the dog out," said Mary Freedman of Long Island, N.Y.
Inside, free WiFi and coffee are an added bonus -- in addition to the bathrooms. "People are traveling, they need to stop. And they like to stretch their legs and have a cup of coffee and it is very friendly and there are lot of things they can look at," said Lilla Willey of Thetford.
The building's design is a throwback to the old railroad days, with a stack of 21st century literature to spark travelers' interests.
"Really, now we look at these facilities to showcase our state -- to tell stories about our communities, to promote our attractions," said Ed von Turkovich, Director of Government Businesses Services.
Out back, trucks make good use of the added space. The 4 million dollar facility is not just for tourists, but also to encourage economic growth to keep rolling forward. "Truck traffic that we have here, as you can see already this morning, having a safe place for truckers to layover is one of our vital missions," von Turkovich said.
In 2009 the state closed four rest stops in an attempt to save money, but drivers missed them. A Congressional earmark helped pay for this one to be rebuilt.
"It was a great inconvenience because we would stop quite often to take a break. It is about a two and-a-half hour ride from Burlington to Brattleboro," said Ray Carbonell, a commuter that takes the route weekly. And now he gladly adds one more stop along the way. "It's overdue I think. I think it is going to be a great asset to Vermont travelers, especially for the foliage season," he said.
It's estimated that 300-thousand people will use this rest stop in its first year. A facility hoped to add convenience for travelers, tourists, and truckers to keep them coming back.
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