The dispute over the contract to rebuild and manage two travel plazas on Interstate 95 intensified Friday, with the company most likely to win the bid denouncing accusations made by competitors, and one of those competitors filing suit.
Areas USA Inc., a subsidiary of Spanish-owned Areas S.A., was recommended by the Maryland Transportation Authority to receive the contract to rebuild and run Chesapeake House and Maryland House, after the transportation authority reviewed proposals from Areas USA, HMSHost, and a joint proposal from Airport Plazas and Tishman Construction Corp.
After Areas received the recommendation for the contract, which still needs approval by the state Board of Public Works, HMSHost filed an official complaint with the transportation authority that claimed Areas had received an unfair advantage because it was allowed to negotiate after the initial bid, and that the transportation authority had not outlined its selection criteria explicitly enough.
Vice President of HMSHost Michael Jones also told The Baltimore Sun that he thought Areas USA must be cutting corners to achieve the figures in its proposal.
The complaint was denied on the grounds that HMSHost had indicated to the transportation authority that the company’s bid had no room for negotiation, and that HMSHost didn’t voice any concerns about the selection criteria before submitting a proposal.
At a Friday press conference held by Areas USA and its partners, the project’s lead architect, Adam Gross, of Ayers Saint Gross, denied allegations that the project cost was unreasonably low, saying that Areas’s proposal costs less because it doesn’t require removing the trees surrounding the two travel plazas.
In a suit filed Friday in Montgomery County Circuit Court, HMSHost claims that the Maryland Transportation Authority’s solicitation process was flawed and violated state procurement laws. The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order to prevent the state from awarding the contract until the fate of the legal challenge is determined.
The Board of Public Works is scheduled to vote on the contract Wednesday.
“HMSHost is compelled to file this legal action to stop the contract from being awarded without full transparency of the Authority’s actions during this procurement,” Jones said in a written statement.
Areas USA CEO Xavier Rabell responded to the suit in a written statement, saying: “Based on our preliminary reading of the documents, the HMSHost arguments have no merit and are merely a delaying tactic. The filing is riddled with factual inaccuracies and misleading statements that we look forward to bringing to the court’s attention.”
The $65 million project would begin in September, and take between 19 and 20 months to complete, according Eduardo Uribe, vice president of business development for Areas USA.