Mergers & Acquisitions

How Sunoco Became King of the Turnpike

Latest deal extends reach of retail network, from the Northeast to the Midwest

HOUSTON -- Sunoco LP is hailing a new agreement to operate travel plazas through Indiana as being the final step in developing a turnpike and toll-road retail network stretching from New York to Illinois.

The company has entered into a concession agreement with ITR Concession Co. LLC, operator of the Indiana Toll Road, to build and manage its eight travel plazas.

Sunoco “finalized a 20-year concession agreement with the Indiana Turnpike Authority to operate eight travel plazas along its 150-mile toll road,” said Bob Owens, president and CEO of Sunoco LP, Houston, during the company’s first-quarter 2016 earnings call May 5. “The agreement is important to us as it completes a series of contiguous sites on turnpikes that run from New York to Illinois.”

Sunoco has a presence on the turnpikes in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Delaware and Maryland, and in a total of 30 states.

ITR has also entered into an agreement with restaurateur HMSHost. The Bethesda, Md.-based company operates food and beverage sites in 116 airports worldwide and in 99 motorway travel plazas throughout the United States and Canada.

The two concessionaires will offer modern travel facilities with new technology and new food options, according to Sunoco.

This $70 million project includes the demolition and rebuilding of the four pairs of travel-plaza buildings (eastbound and westbound locations in Portage, Rolling Prairie, Elkhart and Howe). Sunoco will be the sole operator of the Portage and Elkhart locations, which will be rebuilt into fuel and APlus convenience stores with Laredo Taco Company restaurants.

The company has been expanding its proprietary Laredo Taco foodservice concept beyond Texas.

Sunoco will also operate the fuel stations at the Rolling Prairie and Howe locations, which will be rebuilt into full-service plazas with HMSHost operating and managing the restaurant facilities.

The new travel plazas will provide a range of improved services for customers, including free Wi-Fi, new restaurants with healthy food options, expanded truck parking and competitive fuel prices. Sunoco fleet-card customers will be able to take advantage of fuel discounts at all of the new travel plazas.

“Sunoco is thrilled to be associated with the historic Indiana Toll Road, extending our track record as the premier fuel and food supplier for America’s toll roads,” said Owens. “At our new facilities, Indiana drivers, interstate truckers and cross-country tourists will find an offering of high-quality fuels, including diesel from high-speed dispensers, along with state-of-the-art convenience stores serving great food.”

The travel-plaza construction timeline:

  • Phase 1: Oct. 1, 2015; Fremont travel-plaza buildings and fuel stations (MP 146) permanently closed. Demolition began April 2016.
  • Phase 2: July 2016 – fall 2016; Portage (MP 22) travel plazas demolished and rebuilt into fuel/convenience stores.
  • Phase 2a: Late summer 2016 – spring 2017; Howe (MP 126) plazas demolished and rebuilt into full-service plazas.
  • Phase 3: Spring 2017 – fall 2017; Rolling Prairie (MP 56) travel plazas demolished and rebuilt into full-service plazas.
  • Phase 4: Fall 2017 – spring 2018; Elkhart (MP 90) travel plazas demolished and rebuilt into fuel/convenience stores.

In operation since 1956, the Indiana Toll Road stretches 157 miles across the northernmost part of Indiana from Ohio to the Illinois state line. It links Chicago with the largest cities on the eastern seaboard, and it also serves as the primary connecting route to the Chicago Skyway, a main route to downtown Chicago.

Houston-based Sunoco LP is a master limited partnership (MLP) that operates approximately 1,300 retail fuel sites and convenience stores (including APlus, Stripes, Aloha Island Mart and Tigermarket brands) and distributes motor fuel to convenience stores, independent dealers, commercial customers and distributors located in 30 states at approximately 6,800 sites. Its parent, Energy Transfer Equity LP, owns Sunoco’s general partner and incentive distribution rights.

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