2021 | Transportation

State vote on contract for toll lanes on Beltway, I-270 delayed

Protest by losing project bidder holds up vote

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The Capital Beltway near the I-270 interchange in Bethesda

File photo

A state vote on a contract to develop high-occupancy toll lanes on I-270 and the Capital Beltway scheduled for Thursday has been delayed because of a protest by a losing bidder.

The contract with chosen bidders Transurban and Macquarie would have to be approved by the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) board, before the state Board of Public Works is expected to vote in May .

The partnership of Transurban and Macquarie was chosen over two other bidders.

Terry Owens, a Maryland Department of Transportation spokesman for the project, confirmed in an email on Monday evening that the MDTA vote will not take place on Thursday, as planned.

“The outstanding protest is being reviewed by the Office of the Attorney General before presenting the selection of the Phase Developer and the Phase P3 Agreement to the MDTA Board for approval,” he wrote. “Our focus is on the process and carefully looking at the merits of the protest.”

It’s not yet known which company or companies filed the protest, but The Washington Post reported on March 19 that the consortium of Cintra and John Laing Investments is believed to be the group that filed the protest since the other losing bidder said it did not file one.

Owens declined on Monday to name who filed the protest.

“Because the protest is part of the solicitation process, we are not commenting on who filed the protest or providing any documents related to the protest,” he wrote.

The HOT lanes — two of which will be added across the American Legion Bridge to I-270 and north on I-270 to I-370 — are part of the state’s widening project on I-270 and the Beltway, or I-495.

The plans also calls for adding bicycle and pedestrian connection across the American Legion Bridge. The project’s construction will first start with the bridge.

Buses and vehicles with three or more people will be able to travel the new HOT lanes for free. Drivers traveling alone would have to pay if they use the managed lanes.

Gov. Larry Hogan and state transportation officials have said that the project will alleviate traffic in a congested region.

However, opponents, including Montgomery County, have voiced concerns about uncertain environmental impacts, a lack of transit plans in the project, and the potential failure of another public-private partnership, such as the one that fell apart for the Purple Line project.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.