Williston information centers open on I-89

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(Host) Two large barn-like structures have been under construction in Chittenden County for quite a few months. But they won t be used for milking cows or storing hay. They re Vermont s answer to the old rest stop.

VPR s Lynne McCrea has more.

(McCrea) On both sides of Interstate 89 in Williston, the finishing touches are being made to the two big barns. In 2002, the state says we ll know them as information centers, replacing what we used to call rest stops.

The old Williston facilities were built in the 1960s when the interstate first went through. Tom Torti, the state s buildings commissioner, says the new facilities will be staffed by the Chamber of Commerce and offer high-tech comfort to travelers. And they re bigger much bigger than the old buildings:

(Torti) “People wondered – why were we building too big. Was there a need for it. And in fact, the federal highway administration strongly supported our goals to improve the visibility of these facilities because they saw it as a model that was working around the country.”

(McCrea) The design of the facilities has also drawn attention. It grew out of the state s plan to create a theme for each of its information centers.

(Torti) “In each part of the state, we re trying to talk about a theme that was very specific to that area. In White River junction, it s a train theme, up in Derby has more of a outdoors-hunting-fishing-skiing theme.”

(McCrea) In Williston, the theme is agriculture . Architect Michael Wisniewski took old photos of barns that were in the area before the interstate existed and created replicas.

(Michael) “So it s a real mixture – the building looks traditional, yet it s designed to modern standards. We re pretty happy with it because it feels modern and traditional at the same time. And I think people – when they walk in and look at the space – they re going to say ‘Wow!’ That s basically what s going to happen.”

(McCrea) The state s 10% share of the whole project is $700,000, and that includes the buildings, truck parking, and new entry and exit lanes. In Tom Torti s mind, the result is well worth it:

(Torti) “The image that we present is very important to the traveling public. And, if you present a good image have good folks there who know what they’re doing – it pays economic dividends.”

(McCrea) The Southbound information center opened Friday; the Northbound facility will open in August.

For Vermont Public Radio, I m Lynne McCrea in Williston.

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