Vision becomes a reality

GORGEOUS BUILDING  —  This is Conrad’s new rest stop building. It was officially opened during special ceremonies and a ribbon cutting on Monday morning. The state-of-the-art building is very high tech on the inside and will be emulated by other rest stops as they are able to be constructed.  I-O Photo by Buck Traxler




By Buck Traxler, I-O Editor

When was the last time you got excited over, well, lets call it what it is, a room full of toilets?

Monday morning well over 100 people crammed into the state’s newest rest stop to marvel at the technology, design and safety of the building. The vision for the rest stop began back in 2000 at a meeting in Helena called Visions 2001.  The purpose back then was to give cities and counties the plan to move forward with the state and the feds.

At a lunch break, Ted Kronebusch and Llew Jones were chatting with Mick Johnson, now the Montana Department of Transportation District Administrator. He said to them, “Do you think a new rest stop at Conrad would be a good idea?” It took less than a nano-second to say yes! Originally, readers may recall, that plans were discussed to put the rest stop in the swimming pool park.

Eventually it was a vision to be where it is now. Countless people worked hard to develop relationships to help bring the project forward.

Brian Johnson of Collaborative Design Architects in Billings told the I-O on Monday, “I hoped to create something that not only catered a little more to tourists but something that was really different in its’ structure and environment.”

The overall project cost $4.1 million and the building itself was about $1 million. Johnson said with almost 90 percent of federal highway dollars and a matching grant paying for the project it all came about.

While not in yet, one wall will feature an interactive flat-screen TV display that will feature businesses, upcoming events and maps of the area and entire state.

The entrance is open with a tall ceiling that features a huge 10-foot wide ceiling fan that constantly circulates fresh air into the building.

There are eight individual restrooms here. Gone is the one-open-dorm like restroom in other rest areas. This state-of-the-art facility will be one for all future rest stops to emulate.

In addressing the crowd, Mick Johnson stressed the safety of the facility. The openness and windows allow police officers to view the inside without having to leave their patrol car.

The unisex bathrooms have a red light above the door to show that it is occupied and may be locked from the inside. A green light shows the room to be vacant.

There are both motion and infrared sensors to show that someone is using the restroom.

“That’s an added level of safety and security. People can feel safe when they walk into one of the restrooms,” Johnson said.

Original plans called for the closing of the Teton rest top about 25 miles down I-15. For one, truckers didn’t like either rest stop because they have to re-enter I-15 on a steep bank.

However, plans now call for the rest stop to remain open and with some remodeling, lighting and new furnaces, it will be in place for about another 10-15 years, Johnson said.

Members of the local VFW Post 7655 were on hand to raise the American and state flags and individuals who were involved in making the project come off a piece of paper and come to life took part in a ceremonial ribbon cutting to mark the fact that the building was officially open for business.