By Peter H. Milliken
Relief is on the way for hungry long-distance travelers using the Ohio and Pennsylvania turnpikes.
The new Mahoning Valley and Glacier Hills service plazas on the Ohio Turnpike will open simultaneously at 12:01 a.m. May 22, just in time for the busy Memorial Day weekend travel period, and remain open round the clock, seven days a week, the Ohio Turnpike Commission announced Friday.
A formal ribbon-cutting will be at 9:30 a.m. that day at the Mahoning Valley plaza, which is the gateway plaza for traffic entering Ohio on the westbound side of the turnpike.
“Mahoning Valley will essentially serve as our welcome center because it’s the first plaza coming into the state from Pennsylvania,” said Lauren Hakos, marketing and communications manager for the 241-mile toll road that crosses northern Ohio.
Gov. John Kasich, state legislators, turnpike commission officials and local dignitaries will be invited to the opening ceremony for the two plazas, which cost a combined total of about $31 million to build.
The Glacier Hills plaza is on the eastbound side of the road.
The new plazas will fill a 121.6-mile void westbound between the New Stanton, Pa., Service Plaza, and the Portage Service Plaza in Mantua, Ohio, and a 93.3-mile eastbound void between the Brady’s Leap Service Plaza in Mantua and the Oakmont Plum Service Plaza in Pennsylvania.
“The Memorial Day weekend is a busy travel time, so we’re definitely happy to have these plazas open and serving customers by then,” Hakos said.
Sunoco, which supplies fuel at all Ohio Turnpike service plazas, will be the fuel supplier and operate an A+ convenience store at both new plazas, which are at mile post 237.
Panera Bread will provide round-the-clock food service, and Dairy Queen Grill & Chill with Orange Julius will be open lesser hours. Both will be on both sides of the road, and all four food-service locations will be operated by Covelli Enterprises of Warren.
Both plazas, whose openings were postponed by construction delays, will feature Ohio tourist information booths, whose staffing hours will vary seasonally. Both plaza buildings replace demolished buildings at the same locations, which dated back to the toll road’s 1955 opening.
Toll revenues paid for construction of the new plazas.
Covelli Enterprises needs 200 workers, including managers, assistant managers and bakers, to staff the new food service operations at the Mahoning Valley and Glacier Hills service plazas and has been advertising the jobs on local billboards, said Liz Follet, regional marketing director for Covelli Enterprises for the Youngstown area.
Covelli is conducting open interviews, with no appointments needed, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays at the Holiday Inn Express in North Lima, the Springfield Township Administration Building, and the Huntington Bank Plaza in New Middletown. That schedule will continue at least until May 22, Follet said.
Applications also may be made through panerabread.jobs.
“We think the location is great. We run other turnpike locations in other areas, and they do very well,” Follet said.
Covelli is offering competitive wages, flexible hours, discounted employee meals at the plazas and opportunities for employee advancement, Follet said.