The Maine Turnpike Authority announced that it will close the Gray and Cumberland service plazas for nine weeks beginning next Monday so that renovations can be carried out.

The service plaza closures will affect thousands of motorists and truckers heading north and south. The Gray service plaza is located at Mile 59 northbound and the Cumberland service plaza is located at Mile 58 southbound.

Gas pumps and restrooms at both plazas will need to be shut down while the plazas are renovated to accommodate a new tenant – Burger King.

That means there will be no restrooms or gas available on the 77-mile-long stretch of turnpike between Kennebunk and West Gardiner during renovations.

“During the renovations, all services including gas pumps and sanitary facilities will be closed. Motorists will need to seek alternate locations,” Erin Courtney, a spokeswoman for the Maine Turnpike Authority, said in a news release.

Courtney said the existing Starbucks coffee shops will be removed at both locations and will be replaced by 24-hour, drive-thru Burger King restaurants. Peter Mills, executive director of the turnpike authority, predicts that Burger King will be more profitable than Starbucks at those service plaza locations.

“They haven’t been stopping any traffic at those locations,” Mills said of Starbucks.

Mills said Starbucks has done well at the Kennebunk service plaza in York County, near southern Maine beaches and resort areas, and at the West Gardiner service plaza, just outside of Augusta. “The traffic that travels between Lewiston and Portland is not the place for a Starbucks.”

The turnpike authority and HMS Host, which leases vendor space at the plazas, should both benefit if Burger King prospers. HMS Host pays the turnpike authority 20 percent of its gross profits, according to Mills.

Courtney said the hope is the $3 million renovation project will be finished by no later than Memorial Day. During the renovation project, the next closest service plazas in West Gardiner and Kennebunk will remain open.

Courtney said the project is part of a long-term effort to improve the turnpike users’ experience, by offering more hot food and the convenience of a drive-thru food service.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]


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