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HMSHost lawsuit over travel plazas is dismissed

The longtime operator of the Maryland House and Chesapeake House has lost its legal challenge to the bidding and award process that transferred operational control of the two Interstate 95 rest stops to a Florida company.

Maryland HouseBaltimore City Circuit Court Judge Audrey J.S. Carrion has dismissed the lawsuit Bethesda-based HMSHost brought against the Maryland Transportation Authority and Miami-based Areas USA LLC, the company that won the 35-year, $500 million construction and operating contract this year after a public-private partnership bidding process. HMSHost, which had operated the travel plazas since 1987, had ample opportunities to challenge the process short of litigation but failed to do so, Carrion said.

HMSHost claimed in its lawsuit that state officials illegally favored Areas by denying the Bethesda-based company an opportunity to raise its bid.

“This decision ignores the fact that the state did not follow its own rules and regulations in awarding this contract,” HMS President Tom Fricke said in a statement Friday. “This decision is not only bad for HMSHost, but for all Marylanders.”

The state gave its final approval to Areas’ offer in March when the Board of Public Works voted 2-1 in favor of the company. Gov. Martin O’Malley and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp voted in favor of the award.

Comptroller Peter Franchot voted against it, citing concern over HMSHost’s then-pending lawsuit.

“I just get the feeling we’re jumping the gun here,” Franchot said at the time. “I would … feel more comfortable if we allowed the legal process to run its course.”

Areas began demolition and construction at the Maryland House, in Harford County, in September. The Chesapeake House, in Cecil County, will remain open while the Maryland House is under construction, said Areas Chief Executive Officer Xavier Rabell.