Florida Guide > Miscellaneous
Changes to the Service Plazas on the Florida Turnpike
If you are lucky enough to have time to drive down to Miami from Orlando then it is likely that you will use the Florida Turnpike, which is an excellent road which runs for just over 312 miles. It passes through 11 counties, and runs through West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
Following World War 11, there was huge growth in Florida of tourism and population. Not only that, but the citrus industry was revived, and all of these factors led to the state’s highways becoming very busy. It was a South Florida businessman, Charles B. Costar, who first envisaged a high speed turnpike similar to one he had seen in Pennsylvania. In 1957, a stretch of highway 110 miles long was opened, and it linked Miami with Fort Pierce, although it wasn’t until 1963 that the extension to Orlando was completed. It has service plazas located at approximately 45 mile intervals, and these are open 24 hours a day. You will find them on the centre median of the turnpike as they can be accessed from both directions. The plazas are well run, and offer fast food outlets, gift shops and booths, and tourist information, as well as excellent clean restrooms, but they have begun to show their age.
There has been a recent change to the service plazas as a new contract has recently been awarded to Areas USA to operate the food, beverage and retail concessions at the eight service plazas. This contract will last for 30 years and is a significant change, which will affect over 30 million users of the turnpike plazas each year. Areas USA are committed to spending an estimated $162 million renovating, expanding and constructing new buildings, convenience stores and fuel stations. This is a much needed upgrade as the restaurant buildings were last reconstructed over 24 years ago in 1988. The fuel stations were originally constructed between 1957 and 1964, so these will receive a modern update. Areas USA also operate the concessions at Miami and Orlando International airports.
The new food outlets, which will replace Nathans, Sbarro, Starbucks, Arthur Treachers, Popeyes, Cinnabon and Burger King include the following - Earl of Sandwich, Cheeburger Cheeburger, Nature’s Table, Pizza Hut, etc. However, Dunkin Donuts has been retained.
On our last journey down the Turnpike we had noticed that both Nathans and Burger King were no more at the plaza we stopped at. These new food brands will, apparently, offer more healthy options, which is to be welcomed, although I am not sure how ‘Dunkin Donuts’ or ‘KFC’ qualify as a healthy option!
Construction is continuing, and the restaurant building at the West Palm Beach Service Plaza will be closed until January 2013, although fuel, restroom facilities and limited food and beverage items will be available at the convenience store. In addition, the restaurant building at the Turkey Lake Service Plaza is also closed for renovation until the end of 2012, although limited food and beverage items are available at the new 24 hour convenience store.
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