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Judge dissolves I-95 travel plaza restraining order

A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge Friday dissolved a restraining order that prevented the Board of Public Works from awarding a contract to redevelop two Interstate 95 travel plazas.

With the restraining order rescinded, the board is free to vote on the contract award at its biweekly meeting Wednesday.

Bethesda-based HMSHost, a losing bidder on the project, had filed a motion to extend the temporary restraining order by 10 days, but Judge Eric M. Johnson instead granted a motion to dissolve the order, which was made by the Office of the Maryland Attorney General on behalf of the Maryland Transportation Authority and Board of Public Works.

Areas USA Inc., the winning bidder in the MdTA project to redevelop and manage the Maryland House and Chesapeake House, is alleged by HMSHost to have received an unfair advantage in the bid process.

HMSHost manages the properties until its contract expires Sept. 1.

Johnson granted a 14-day restraining order on Feb. 22, preventing the contract from being voted on by the Board of Public Works.

The order would have expired Wednesday, less than an hour before the Board of Public Works meeting.

The contract proposal made by Areas, part of a public-private partnership with the state, calls for an initial $56 million investment by the company, which has a “firm commitment” to complete its work on both plazas by September 2014. Areas will manage and maintain the property for 35 years, ending in 2047. MdTA also reserves the right to cancel Areas’ contract should the company fail to deliver, Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley said.

Swaim-Staley said she expected 400 construction jobs to be created during the renovation process.