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Thruway authority reopens first redesigned rest stop

Phase 1 delays have resulted in unanswered questions about the project's overall timeline.

CLARENCE, N.Y. — The New York State Thruway Authority has reopened its first redesigned rest stop just over a year since announcing a $450 million plan to "modernize" services and amenities along the interstate.

The Indian Castle Service Area, located along the I-90 in the Mohawk Valley, which opened Friday includes a new food market called Applegreen, a Starbucks, Popeyes, and Taste of NY food and drink products.

While Indian Castle is a good indicator of what Western New York can expect when its Clarence and Pembroke rest stops reopening, there is a stark difference in progress. Instead of shiny new signs, steel beams and a partial roof are all that stand at either site, with new food options scheduled to open in the Spring of 2023.

Back in April, the Auburn Pub reported that completion dates for the Indian Castle and two other service areas were "quietly updated" on the Thruway Authority website from March 2022 to the 3rd Quarter of 2022. All three stops *were* scheduled to reopen before Pembroke and Clarence, although the thruway authority has not said how the aforementioned delays have impacted their overall schedule.

Pembroke and Clarence were originally listed for completion in August of 2022. Their website now lists the 1st Quarter of 2023.

"You know we will be respectfully keeping a look on it," said Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D) of Westchester.

Paulin is the Chair of the State Assembly's Committee on Corporations, Authority, and Commissions which oversees projects like the thruway service area redesign. She told 2 On Your Side Tuesday that she heard supply chain issues were to blame for delays but said her committee received no complaints or letters about the construction timelines.

"I know both the Assembly and the Senate would have intervened [if there were complaints] but there really haven't been," Paulin said.

Indian Castle is 1 of 27 service areas being redone in two phases. Twenty-three are being rebuilt while four are receiving significant renovations and upgrades according to the thruway authority. Phase 1 commenced on July 29, 2021, and remains underway with 16 service areas closed for construction including Pembroke and Clarence. Phase 2 is scheduled to start in Spring 2023 and will address the remaining 11 stops including one in Angola.

The project is being managed by Empire State Thruway Partners, an organization owned by Applegreen Limited, based out of the U.K.

While Assemblymember Paulin says they've received no complaints, State Senator George Borrello (R) says his office has been just the opposite.

"If you're not hearing complaints you're not paying attention I've heard countless complaints from people," Borrello told 2 On Your Side during a Zoom interview Tuesday afternoon.

Borrello claims that Empire State Thruway Partners has lacked transparency while managing the project and wants them to clarify whether Phase 2 will commence if delays in Phase 1 continue. He worries with the construction of a new Angola Service Area, which will service both directions of traffic, travelers may be left without an on-interstate stop from the Pennsylvania border to Rochester.

"Quite frankly I think it's been a disaster," Borrello said.

Assemblymember Paulin did add if reporting by 2 On Your Side raises new concerns, her office and the Committee on Corporations, Authority, and Commissions would welcome the attention. For now, however, she said.

"I think that we've done our due diligence by monitoring it, listening and being aware of what some of the issues are and again continuing to do that until it's finished."

2 On Your Side did hear back from a spokesperson for the parent company of Applegreen Limited, Blackstone, but a list of questions could not immediately be answered due to limited availability and tight timing.

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