Along Interstate 95, there are service plazas with food, fuel, and retail services in both directions approximately every 10 miles from Darien to Madison, then they disappear about 45 miles before the Rhode Island border.
Interstate 95 travelers in Middlesex and New London counties have a much different experience when making a roadside pit stop.
Existing Facilities in Eastern Connecticut
A Connecticut Welcome Center with restrooms and a tourist information desk, between exit 66 and 65 in Westbrook on I-95 Northbound, is only open limited hours. The facility, built in 1988, is the smallest rest stop on I-95 in Connecticut and the last one in the northbound direction.
When the welcome center isn’t staffed, the building is locked and travelers must use port a-potties.
The closest service plaza for travelers traveling from I-95 North to I-395 North is in Plainfield, roughly 30 miles away. This is because the I-395 Montville Service Plaza, while it is only about 7 miles away from I-95 featuring Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway, and Mobil, is only in the southbound direction.
Rhode Island visitors are greeted by the 54-year-old Connecticut Welcome Center, between exits 93 and 92, in North Stonington, which is close to the Rhode Island border. While the building’s restrooms here are open 24 hours, they are certainly in need of a makeover. There is also a separate room with a tourist information desk and brochures that are only open limited hours.
Except for picnic areas, barbecue grills, and a couple vending machines, the Westbrook and North Stonington rest areas have no other amenities.
Newly Renovated Facilities Near the New York Border
These facilities stand in contrast to the newly renovated Darien Service Plaza on I-95 Northbound and the Greenwich Service Plaza on Route 15 Northbound, the first rest stops coming into Connecticut from New York.
According to Connecticut Service Plazas, vendors at the Darien plaza include Subway, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Sbarro, Mac-n-Out, Cheeseboy, Wilson’s BBQ, Alltown Convenience Store, Statement USA, Best Buy Express and Mobil gas/diesel. Other amenities include free Wi-Fi, ATM, TTY Phone, and tourism kiosk.
The Greenwich plaza features a Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts, Alltown Convenience Store, and Mobil gas station.
Both facilities allow travelers to access brochures 24/7 even when the tourism information desk isn’t staffed.
Some say that federal law prohibits new service plazas on interstate highways but Rhode Island was able to get around the law in creating the Blackstone River State Park Visitor Center in Lincoln off I-295 north which has a Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins.
Some might argue that a service plaza could take business away from private businesses like American Auto Stop in North Stonington off exit 93, near the Rhode Island state line, which boasts a general store, Stuckey’s and a food court with Sbarro, Nathan’s, and Johnny Pastrami.
However, the I-95 Branford Service Plazas is within close proximity to the Travel Centers of America facility in Branford hosting Subway, Starbucks and Popeye’s and the I-95 Milford Service Plazas are near the Pilot Travel Center in Milford which features a Wendy’s and Cinnabon.
RI and Mass. Also Lack Service Plazas
The lack of service plazas on I-95 from Madison, CT to Lexington, Mass., approximately 140 miles, was written in “Rhode Island’s Next Big Idea, Even Bigger Than Calamari”.
The writer suggests building service plazas near exit 7 (Center of New England) and one at the Rhode Island Welcome Center on I-95 Northbound, which has sat abandoned since it closed back in 2011.
If more service plazas are built, they should offer new food offerings of chains not in our area or recruit independent restaurants to be closer to the Interstate.