The $20.2 million upgraded rest stop on the Long Island Expressway in Dix Hills is now in operation, just 14 months after plans for its expansion were made public.
State and local officials were on hand Thursday for the grand opening of the once-controversial Long Island Welcome Center, located off the eastbound lanes between Exits 51 and 52.
“It’s an opportunity in one place to showcase all that is great about Long Island,” said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who cut a ribbon signaling the opening of the 15,200-square-foot facility. “Tourism is huge for Long Island; it’s an important part of our economy.”
Hochul said an expected 5,200 vehicles will stop at the center daily. The building is LEED-certified, with lighted parking for 135 vehicles, round-the-clock access to toilets and vending machines, a pet comfort station, a multipurpose room and continuous video monitoring. It also has a substation for state and Suffolk County police.
The welcome center also will feature a Taste NY Market, offering locally produced food and beverages.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the welcome center offers modern conveniences.
“Now we have a place where they can stop off, use the facilities, have something to eat and learn about everything that is great about Long Island,” he said.
In August 2015, town and state officials wanted the state Department of Transportation to reconsider its expansion plans for the rest stop after the state began clearing trees from the area without prior notice.
The state briefly halted the plan, only to resume months later with a pared-down proposal. Nearby residents had opposed expanding the stop over concerns about quality of life, including idling trucks.
As a compromise, state officials agreed to ban trucks and buses if the residents agreed not to sue or impede sewer and water district approvals for the project.
Truck and bus parking also will be banned from the service road that feeds into the center.
Those vehicles will instead be directed to the DOT maintenance facility at Exit 56 on the westbound side of the Long Island Expressway. There also is a rest area between Exits 65 and 66 for eastbound trucks and buses.