August 3, 2015

Hartford’s newest retail rest stop to revive spent truckers, fuel tanks

Rendering | Contributed
Rendering | Contributed
Artist’s view of Pride Convenience Inc.’s proposed Hartford travel center off I-91 northbound and Jennings Road, in the city’s North Meadows. Bristling with retail amenities and services, it also will provide ample parking for trucks and cars.
HBJ PHOTO | Gregory Seay
This site at the northeast corner of Jennings and Leibert roads in Hartford’s North Meadow is proposed for a Pride Travel Center retail rest stop.

Springfield convenience-store operator Pride Convenience Inc. has chosen I-91 northbound in Hartford's North End for its first large Connecticut retail and refueling rest stop for motorists and truckers.

State transportation and private-trucking officials say the facility would be a much-needed, welcome solution to a statewide shortage of trucker rest areas.

Pride founder Robert "Bob" Bolduc said his company has purchased several land parcels from the city and private landowners, totaling about 6 ˝ acres at the northeast corner of Jennings Road, at the I-91 interchange in the city's North Meadows.

With the pulling of city building permits and state and federal environmental clearances to install underground fuel storage tanks underway, construction of the 16-pump travel center could begin sometime in September, Bolduc said. Opening is set for Independence Day 2016, staffed with 45 full- and part-time workers, mostly from Hartford, he said.

Thomas E. Deller, the city's economic development chief, confirmed the sale in recent months of several city-owned parcels to Pride. The parcels' size and sales price were not immediately available.

Bolduc said the closely held company he launched from a single Springfield location in 1972 is investing several million dollars to open the first Pride location of that size in Connecticut. Pride has three other neighborhood convenience store locations in Windsor Locks and Simsbury.

Altogether, Pride has 32 convenience stores in western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut, of which three are travel centers. Pride has two convenience store-gas stations in Simsbury and a third in Windsor Locks. Hartford will be its first Connecticut travel center, Bolduc said.

Outside, the Hartford travel center will have 16 pump islands dispensing gasoline and diesel fuel, with ample parking and apron space for tractor-trailers, Bolduc said. Also provided will be a free "Park & Ride'' commuter lot for about two dozen vehicles, and a 1,000-square-foot outdoor pet park for curbing four-legged passengers.

Inside, the travel center will feature the usual array of convenience-store consumables and sundries. In addition, Pride will operate its own café-bakery, alongside independently operated Subway sandwich and Wendy's Hamburgers fast-food counters, Bolduc said.

Public restrooms will be available, along with showers — three for males; one for females, Bolduc said. The travel center will be within half a mile of several motels on the southbound side of I-91, along Weston Street.

A Hartford visitors venter also will be housed on the Pride premises. Bolduc said Pride requested the on-site visitors center; he assumes it will be manned by the city since the travel center itself is a joint cooperative venture with the city.

He said that cooperative venture is the reason hiring for the travel center will focus on city residents, partly because their proximity would mean less difficulty getting to work, particularly in inclement weather, but also because "we want to support the city. We want to be good neighbors."

Bolduc said Pride hasn't petitioned the state for financial assistance to erect and staff the travel center, nor does it plan to.

He said it's possible Pride could build more travel centers in Connecticut, but for now it has no such plans. Pride is developing its fourth travel center in Westfield, Mass., but no construction-opening timetable has been set, Bolduc said.

Bolduc firmly insists the Hartford facility "isn't a truck stop,'' since private motorists, too, will share the facility.

However, he acknowledged that a key factor for developing the Hartford travel center is the dearth of safe parking and rest areas for truckers who, by federal law, are limited in how many hours they are allowed at the wheel without rest.

Connecticut Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Nursick said the agency's latest survey showed a deficit of some 1,200 "safe and suitable" parking slots daily statewide. Often, tired truckers are forced to pull off the highway to park and rest at on- and exit ramps, local streets, or and in retail, service station and apartment parking lots. lists at least 10 state-owned service plazas, plus another 18 large, privately owned truck refueling stations along Connecticut's interstates and major state roads.

According to Nursick, state traffic surveys in 2010 found that one of every five vehicles traveling the stretch of I-84 eastbound, from state Route 195 leading to Storrs to the Massachusetts border, was a semi.

"It's really good news to hear someone is talking about putting a rest stop in Hartford,'' said Michael J. Riley, president of the Hartford-based Motor Transport Association of Connecticut. "There have been several studies … indicating Connecticut doesn't provide enough [trucker] rest areas.

"Any addition of truck parking spaces … is a positive step,'' Riley said. "These men and women need places to park and rest.''

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