By now, commuters who drive the Kansas Turnpike between Lawrence and Topeka probably have adjusted to changes at the Topeka service area.
For example, they no longer pass the service area if they get off the turnpike at the East Topeka interchange, which was moved farther east last August. And though the service area is open to motorists who continue west and those heading east toward Lawrence, its Hardee's restaurant has been closed since December.
All that will change soon when a new $14 million service area with more amenities including a business center for those who take their work on the road opens by early summer.
Part of a series of upgrades and restaurant-franchise changes that will take place along the 236-mile toll road in the next year or so, the new Topeka service area is the largest of the projects.
It will combine food and fuel facilities long housed in separate buildings into one 17,297-square-foot structure, said turnpike spokeswoman Lisa Callahan.
Instead of just one restaurant and a gasoline station, it will contain a Hardee's, Taco Bueno and Bresler's Ice Cream, which will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A gourmet coffee shop, pizza place and convenience store that sells Conoco fuel will stay open 24 hours. The new building also will have a gift shop.
Another new addition unique to the Topeka service station will be an automated business center tailored to the needs of commuters with an Internet hookup, computer, copy machine, fax machine and printer.
"Between Lawrence and Topeka is our heavier commuter-based traffic," Callahan said. "We designed this with both the one-time I-70 traveler and the commuter in mind."
The shell of the new service area is complete and can be seen now about five miles east of the East Topeka interchange on the north side of the road, Callahan said.
"You will be able to access it from both directions," she said. "But it's a little unique that it will be on the north side of the road instead of the middle."
Construction inside the building should be finished later this spring or early summer, Callahan said.
Turnpike officials won't be making any physical changes to the Lawrence service area, Callahan said, because it's been recently rebuilt and is in good shape. However, McDonald's recently beat out Hardee's in a bidding war and will take over as the service area's restaurant within a few years.
Farther south on the turnpike, single-building service areas at Towanda and Matfield Green also will be constructed. Each will contain a McDonald's and a Phillips 66 station.