The front door to Western Wisconsin is getting a facelift.
Governor Scott Walker announced the rest stop on Interstate 90 in La Crosse will undergo changes.
Right now the rest stop is used as a place to stretch your legs and use the restroom, but the state thinks it can be used as so much more, and another major project that's going on in the area right now is presenting a perfect opportunity for change.
On a trip from Michigan to California and back, Cole Levine and his friends have seen their share of rest stops. "At least 30ish," said Levine. Here in La Crosse they used a map on the wall to find where they are and how far they have to go. But the Convention and Visitor's bureau wants the facility to be used for much more.
"You see how much, little space we have inside for brochure display, I mean we need more space," said Dave Clements from the Crosse Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau, "there is now doubt that we're crammed in there, the brochures are jammed in there, there's no place for people to mill around."
That's why Clements wrote a memo back in April presenting the idea, and before he knew it, the project is underway. "Thank goodness everybody in the process, transportation and tourism and the Governor's office all listened," said Clements.
One thing helping move the project along is the I-90 bridge project. "As Eastbound traffic is redone it will require this area to be closed off so its the perfect time to do a complete facelift," said Governor Scott Walker.
The Governor says the project is long overdue. "This particular facility was opened literally when I was in 3rd grade, so it kind of puts it in perspective that while it looks good and the team here does a good job maintaining, making it look nice both inside and also with the flowers and everything, the bottom line is it's about due for a facelift and this will give a very welcome and encouraging sign to people coming in the state," said Governor Walker.
"We brainstormed and if we stayed within the same imprint, we'd be able to get a tourism information center into the project at the end," said Representative Jill Billings, who is on the Governor's council on tourism.
The new $3.5 million Tourism Information Center will feature more room for brochures and interactive displays, it will also have new restrooms. It's all an effort to promote our state. "It gives our local volunteers and staff a chance to say hey, stay right here, stick around here, here's what we can offer you for things to do, recreational opportunities," said Clements.
The hope is to turn a routine rest stop into something that brings people back.
The project is being funding through the Department of Transportation. There will be several months in both 2015 and 2016 when there will be no access to the rest stop because of the I-90 project. That's when construction will be done on the rest stop.
They hope to have the entire project done by the end of July 2016.
Representative Jill Billings says when the project is complete, they hope to move on to phase two. That would include the possibility of walking paths down to the river, and possibly a pier that could be used for fishing.