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Construction continues on the new rest stops on Interstate 93 through Hooksett. Shown here is the northbound side. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Rivalry speeds progress on Hooksett's I-93 welcome centers

HOOKSETT — The new welcome centers being built on Interstate 93 in Hooksett are eight weeks ahead of schedule, thanks in part to a friendly rivalry between the two construction crews, the project’s development team said Friday.

Rusty McLear, one of the project’s developers, said the teams of construction workers building the new centers on I-93 just north of the Hooksett toll plaza have kept the project at its $32.5 million budget and have moved faster than expected despite the long, harsh winter.

“There is a little competition between the two sides,” McLear said. “It’s a competition with a lot of camaraderie, but it’s still a competition.”

“It certainly wasn’t the weather. The weather has been very difficult,” he said.

The frames of the buildings are up, and already dwarf the existing state liquor stores, and work is being completed on the roof and sides of the buildings.

On Monday, the project will close off access to the plaza on I-93 north from Route 3A and will close the plaza off completely to tractor-trailers. Large trucks will still be able to use the plaza on the southbound lane, McLear said.

He said the plaza on the northbound lane is smaller, and the next phase of the project will require eliminating some parking spaces, leaving just enough for passenger cars, he said.

“When you get trucks, one truck can take up 10 parking spaces,” he said. “We had to make a decision based on what’s best for the most people.”

When completed, the plazas will each feature new, 20,000-square-foot state liquor stores, a food court featuring various offerings from the Common Man family of restaurants, a 24-hour convenience store, a bank branch, a visitors center and an Irving Oil fueling station that will also have a “test run” of plug-in stations for electric vehicles, according to a release from the project’s development team.

“This innovative public-private collaboration will boost our economy and create long-term jobs, and I am excited that construction of these modern, uniquely New Hampshire welcome centers is running ahead of schedule,” Gov. Maggie Hassan said in a statement.

McLear said the buildings will open in phases, with the liquor store, gas stations and convenience stores opening this fall and the welcome centers and food courts opening early next year.

“Our relationship with the state and the Department of Transportation has been very, very good and it’s been a great partnership,” he said.

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