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Four Teams Seeking Maryland Highway Contract Clear First Hurdle

Wed July 22, 2020 - National Edition
Maryland Matters

All four of the private-sector construction teams seeking to build express toll lanes in the Washington, D.C., suburbs have cleared their first hurdle.

The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Maryland Transportation Authority (MTA) announced July 17 that the four consortia who sought shortlist status have been granted it.

The designation means they can respond to the state's Requests for Proposal on Gov. Larry Hogan's plans to widen portions of the Capital Beltway (Interstate 495) and I-270 and rebuild the American Legion Bridge.

The initial portion of project's first phase calls for four new variable toll lanes from the George Washington Parkway in Virginia to the Interstate 370 exit onto I-270 in Maryland. Two lanes would run in each direction.

Maryland wants the public-private partnership (PP3) firms to design, finance and build the new lanes in exchange for the right to set and collect variable tolls for 50 years or more. The companies would be responsible for the maintenance of the existing lanes on the two roads, all of which would remain free to motorists.

The Hogan administration said this arrangement is necessary because the state lacks the bonding capacity to handle the $9 billion to $11 billion project. MDOT also has said firms with global experience bring "innovation" that the state lacks. Space in much of the I-495 and I-270 corridor is extremely tight.

"As Maryland recovers from the COVID-19 emergency and as the region continues to grow, replacing the American Legion Bridge and maximizing efficient movement of people and goods will remain top priorities," MDOT Secretary Greg Slater said in a statement.

"Partnering with the private sector will help Maryland create opportunities and jobs, connect people to employment centers, improve transit, bike and pedestrian mobility, and help us keep our infrastructure in a state of good repair now and in the future."

The plan's many critics contend that only the well-to-do will have the resources to access the lanes, which are in wide use in Virginia and which they dub "Lexus lanes." Critics in and out of government have complained that the state has not done enough to include transit in its preliminary design.

The four joint ventures that reached the shortlist for the highway work now have until early 2021 to submit their designs to the state. MDOT and MDTA plan to select a preferred Phase Developer and recommend a Phase 1 P3 Agreement to the Board of Public Works in late spring or early summer of next year.

The second part of Phase 1, along I-270 between I-370 and I-70, is undergoing a separate environmental review process.

The four companies will now compete to prove they are best positioned to bring the project home, moving the most traffic with the least impact on surrounding communities and the environment.

The four teams making it to the state's P3 shortlist are:

  • Accelerate MarylandExpress Partners. The lead project developer/equity is Itinera Infrastructure & Concessions Inc.; the lead contractors are Halmar International LLC and Itinera S.p.A. The designers are Atkins North America Inc. and Gannett Fleming Inc.
  • Accelerate Maryland Partners LLC. The lead project developer/equity is Transurban (USA) Operations Inc. and Macquarie Infrastructure Developments LLC; the contractor is Archer Western Construction LLC; and the designers are Dewberry Engineers Inc. and Stantec Consulting Services Inc.
  • Capital Express Mobility Partners. The project developers/equity are Cintra Global SE, Meridiam Capital Express LLC, and John Laing Investments Limited. The lead contractor is Ferrovial Agroman US Corp.; and the designer is AECOM Technical Services Inc.
  • Potomac Mobility Group, made up of lead project developer/equity ACS Infrastructure Development Inc.; lead contractor Dragados USA Inc., and the designers are Parsons Transportation Group Inc., Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., and HDR Engineering Inc.

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