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Bigger, better stop ’n go

Rest Stop03ALLIGATOR ALLEY — You’re hungry, you’re thirsty, you need to stretch or you really “gotta go” on that long drive across Alligator Alley between Weston and Naples.

Be advised: There is one less place to make a pit stop.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is in the process of constructing  a bigger and better rest stop at mile marker 63, with fresher picnic pavilions, an inviting air-conditioned indoor space with vending machines chock full of drinks and snacks, new and more restrooms and a staffed public safety facility.

“The amount of traffic has so increased over time that not only is there a need to increase the size and function of the facility, but we also need to increase the wastewater treatment plant, too,” said Jennifer Dorning, a public information officer for the project under the direction of FDOT.

The entire facility will be bulldozed and a new, environment-friendly rest area will be built in its place. The project will be LEED certified, which designates that it meets eco standards of the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

Dorning said the $8.8-million project will likely be finished in fall 2014. Meanwhile, the rest stop 37 miles east of Naples and 43 miles west of the I-75 toll plaza near Weston  is closed.

Coming from the east, travelers will have the first chance at roadside amenities at the mile marker 34 rest stop in Broward County, about 11 miles west of the Weston toll plaza. Restrooms, snacks, water fountains, pet exercise areas and picnic tables are available there.

At about mile marker 49, off Snake Road, the Miccosukee Service Plaza offers the chance for relief, but if travelers don’t stop there, they will have to wait approximately 52 miles more for food, gas and restrooms.

The I-75/Alligator Alley rest area project at mile marker 63 in Collier County will increase the number of restrooms from its original 30 to 44 – including four family size restrooms. The public safety complex will house up to six emergency personnel, including firefighters and paramedics from Collier County Emergency Management and will feature a helicopter port to decrease response time to emergency situations. Office space will be available for Florida Highway Patrol and Collier County Sheriff’s Office.

Recreation access will also be improved. The site will offer parking for up to 15 cars and 25 trucks or trailers and two new trail openings into Big Cypress National Preserve. About 25,000 vehicles travel Alligator Alley every day, Dorning said.

“(The project) meets the needs of everyone – tourists, commuters and people who live there in the rural communities,” she said.

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