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Published: Thursday, 2/17/2005

Monroe County: Welcome Center set for November

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The visitor center is located just south of the LaPlaisance Road exit off the expressway.
The visitor center is located just south of the LaPlaisance Road exit off the expressway.
SIMMONS / BLADE Enlarge

MONROE - Construction of a new I-75 Michigan Welcome Center, one of the state's busiest such centers, is progressing and expected to be completed on schedule in November.

The Monroe Welcome Center at mile marker 10, one mile south of Monroe's LaPlaisance Road exit, closed in October.

"Since tourism is our second biggest industry, we want our rest areas to be as visitor friendly as possible," said Bill Shreck, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Transportation, which is overseeing the project.

The $2.6 million reconstruction effort will include a new, barrier-free building that will meet current state codes, a larger parking lot, additional restrooms, an energy-efficient heating and cooling system, and a new Travel Michigan visitor information center.

Mr. Shreck said about 1.5 million people visit the center annually, making it the state's second busiest center most years. However, this year, with the center closing in late October, it fell to third place, behind the New Buffalo center on I-94 at the Michigan-Indiana border and the Clare County center at U.S. 127 and U.S. 10, according to Kirsten Borgstrom, a Travel Michigan spokesman.

The Monroe center is known for the large number of tractor-trailer drivers who fill the parking lot at night to sleep in their vehicles. Mr. Shreck said the trend began more than a decade ago when certain trucking company clients, such as General Motors, began requiring truckers to show up at a specific time as products are needed to avoid warehousing the goods.

"It's common and it's one of the reasons we want to expand it," he said.

The Monroe center's Travel Michigan office, whose staff answers travel questions and passes out printed material, has moved its office to the Horizon Outlet Mall on LaPlaisance, one mile west of Exit 11, until the new center opens.

Contact George Tanber at:

gtanber@theblade.com

or 734-241-3610.



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