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THRUWAY EYES GRAND ISLAND REST AREA AUTHORITY SEEKS PROPOSALS FOR RESTAURANT, GASOLINE STATION

The area's newest Thruway restaurant and gas station rest area will be on Grand Island at Whitehaven Road, if developers show enough interest.

The State Thruway Authority is soliciting proposals from potential operators and has set an Aug. 1 deadline for their submission.

The facility would be on Thruway property at the southwest corner of Whitehaven Road and the Thruway, just north of the state-operated tourist information center in the Burger King Restaurant on Staley Road.

"The Thruway had this land there and thought it would be a good idea because there is no service area there," said Pat Cantiello, Thruway Authority spokeswoman.

The closest rest areas are in Clarence and Angola. The Grand Island center would be directly off the southbound lane of the Thruway, but northbound motorists would have access to it also, Ms. Cantiello said.

"If feasible, a new restaurant and gasoline station will be constructed at a prime location and should benefit the public, the operators and the Thruway," said John H. Shafer, executive director of the Thruway Authority.

The Niagara Frontier State Parks and Recreation Commission operates the information center on Staley Road. It is frequented mainly by northbound motorists, said Mario J. Pirastru, commission director.

"I really don't know if it would be in competition," Pirastru said. "They would notice our information signs before they get to the rest area."

He said if the service area is located on the west side of the Thruway as planned, and attracts mainly southbound travelers, it may have little effect on the tourist information center.

"We get little, if any, traffic going south," he said. "We're catching the traffic going north."

The Thruway is seeking proposals for the design, development, construction and long-term operation of a food-service facility and gasoline station. The plans must provide for the 24-hour operation of the gas station and restaurant.

Thruway officials said the facility will include both fast-food and coffee shop operations and as many other patron services as the developer wants to include.

Ms. Cantiello noted the Thruway is looking for proposals, and the future of the project depends on the plans submitted. "We think there will be interest out there," she said.

A conference for interested firms will be held at 10 a.m. July 6 in the Thruway Authority Administrative Headquarters in Albany.

The authority expects to have the facility opened by next May 1.

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