NewsRadio 570 WKBN) - As we enter the height of the tourist season, did you know that the former Welcome Center as you enter Ohio on Interstate 80 has been closed for 3 1/2 years? Tourism is one of Ohio's bigger industries, but it's hard to tell when you see the shuttered facility along the freeway.
(Image of coned off entrance to former Welcome Center)
Any evidence that there even was a Welcome Center on westbound I-80 is gone: the signs have been taken down. The entrance ramp is simply coned off. Truckers will occasionally use the exit or entrance ramp to catch some sleep. Local businesses like hotels, museums, etc used to place their brochures there, just like at the 11 other Travel Information Centers in the state. This center even had an attendant at one point: to answer travel questions.
(Image of one building at Pennsylvania Welcome Center at milemarker 1 of I-80 east)
One thing that puts Ohio's lack of effort to shame can be found two miles down the road: the I-80 eastbound Pennsylvania Welcome Center at milemarker 1 in Mercer County is a modern facility that is staffed during busy travel times. The Keystone State's travel centers are operated by a division of PennDOT, where the Ohio facilities are overseen by ODOT. The tourism effort has been outsourced by TourismOhio to a company known as Ad Rack. There is no attendant at any facility unless a nearby county tourism bureau is interested in supplying someone.