ONroute in Ontario 0
ONroute Highway Service Centres are opening along Highways 401 and 400 across Ontario to better serve motorists, including this one in Trenton. (Handout/Ben Rahn/A-Frame)
Heading out on the highway for a “one-tank trip” or even commuting is more pleasurable with the much-improved service centres across Ontario.
The ONroute Highway Service Centres along Highways 401 and 400 are reminiscent of the modern refuelling, food and rest stops on U.S. interstates and throughways.
The Ontario government’s redevelopment program is replacing 23 outdated centres, intending the new ones to be “a welcome beacon of genuine hospitality, innovation and safety during your travels.”
More than 500,000 people travel these two highways daily, making them among the busiest roadways in North America.
The three-year program includes staffed Ontario Tourism Information Centres at ONroute Tilbury South and ONroute Bainsville, which are the gateways to the Highway 401 corridor from the east and west.
All of the centres include self-serve stations stocked with news and tourist brochures about their respective local communities, along with free WiFi.
Coming soon to a highway near you
There are six centres left to build, said Naomi Kriss of Kriss Communications who represents Quadrangle Architect Ltd., designer of the centres:
- Mallorytown South, on the 401 in eastern Ontario, is under construction and scheduled to open on June 28.
- King City, on the 400 north of Toronto, is under construction and set to open Aug. 31.
- Barrie, on the 401 north of Toronto, is scheduled for a start of construction next month and “should be open by Thanksgiving.”
- Cambridge North and South, on the 401 east of Kitchener, is also to start construction next month with an opening by Thanksgiving.
- Cookstown, on the 400 north of Toronto, is “on hold” awaiting a new site and is “not likely to open until 2014 or beyond,” Kriss said.
Eat, gas up, rest and go
The new centres feature a much larger range of dining options.
These vary throughout the network and include Tim Hortons, of course, A&W, Burger King, Cold Stone Creamery, Kentucky Fried Chicken/Taco Bell, New York Fries, Pizza Pizza and Starbucks.
Others with “healthy options” are Bento Nouveau Sushi, Brioche Doree French cafe, Casey’s, East Side Mario’s Pronto, Extreme Pita, Pusateri’s Fine Foods, Teriyaki Experience and Yogen Fruz.
Motorists will also find the Market, a custom travel retail store that features a selection of fresh gourmet “foods to go” as well as newspapers, maps and magazines.
Convenience and travel items, including everyday essentials and automated banking machines, add to the many amenities travellers now find along the highways.
New are Canadian Tire gas stations, with pumps for motorists and commercial vehicles, along with an adjacent convenience store at each location.
There is free wireless service for one hour with directions on how to get connected posted in each centre.
State-of-the-art washrooms feature touchless and water-saving fixtures while there are designated pet rest and exercise areas along with outdoor dining and picnic areas for the warmer seasons.
RV and motorhome dump stations are located at “select locations” including Dutton and West Lorne.
The centres are designed with separate parking areas to accommodate automobiles and trucks as well as transport and recreational vehicles.
They are built with the “highest standards of accessibility” including the washrooms, ramps and an accessible public telephone with TTY features.
Quadrangle Architects has incorporated “family friendly and universally accessible design features” with such things as universally accessible service counters, drinking fountains and phones and unisex family washrooms with barrier-free sinks and toilets.
The design was “inspired by Ontario’s natural beauty,” with identifiable signature elements including a glass atrium with sloped glass walls, traditional indigenous stone and wood canopies.
Stakeholders are Maryland-based Host Kilmer Service Centers, an alliance between HMSHost, a leader in travel dining and shopping, and Kilmer Van Nostrand, a Canadian company with extensive experience in building public infrastructure.
The partnership was selected in 2009 by the Ontario government to be the developer and operator of the centres.
Other Ontario companies involved are EllisDon Construction, Quadrangle Architects and Bruce Mau Design.
HostKilmer operates restaurants and retail stores in 101 travel plazas throughout the U.S. and Canada.
It also provides dining and shopping options at 111 airports worldwide, including Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, and the 20 busiest airports in North America.
If you go:
To find out more about the ONroute centre locations, construction progress and services available at each, go to onroute.ca.