Outpost update: State argues feds signed off on restaurant in Route 295 Visitor Center

Outpost update: State argues feds signed off on restaurant in Route 295 Visitor Center

LINCOLN – State officials are arguing that federal officials signed off on plans for a restaurant within the Blackstone Valley State Park Visitor Center off Route 295 more than a decade ago, before stating it was illegal earlier this year.

The Outpost, which operates as a restaurant and general store inside the center, has been open despite the threat of a shutdown after Federal Highway Administration officials visited the storefront in July, after the store’s opening.

Federal officials said they had been unaware of the Dunkin’ Donuts business that had operated in the center since its opening day in 2006 until the company moved out in 2012.

On Sunday, Dec. 6, heads of Rhode Island departments of transportation and environmental management refuted that U.S. officials hadn’t known the facility housed a business, and further stated these officials had been a part of the planning for the $4.3 million visitor center.

The letter, signed by Janet Coit, DEM director and Peter Alviti Jr., Rhode Island Department of Transportation director, reads that the center “… was built in reliance on the approval of the commercial establishment by three former federal highway administrators.” It continued, “Project documents exchanged between (the) DOT, DEM and FHWA show a major cooperative effort between the state and federal government for the design, construction, and funding of the Rest Stop and Visitor Center, including a privately-operated concession.”

In addition to the letter, DEM and RIDOT included a letter from September 2013, which granted modifications to highway ramps for the new visitor center and an agreement from December 2003 that Lucy Garliauskas, then-FHWA division administrator, signed, requiring the DEM to hire a commercial vendor, and minutes of an April 2001 meeting.

In those minutes, Dan Berman, then-FHWS assistant division administrator, is said to have been excited about the state’s “innovate approach” to the center.

The food vendor within the center is responsible for maintaining and cleaning the facility and keeping the center open past the limited daytime schedule.

Doug Hecox, FHWS spokesman, said the agency is “reviewing the state’s plan” and looks forward to working with both Alviti and Coit.