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Rahn’s former employer recommended for $69M state transportation contract

Company would oversee a $7.6 billion private-public project

Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn. (File)

Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn. (File)

A firm that once employed Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn is poised to win a nearly $69 million state contract after transportation officials waived their normal procurement procedures.

A consortium led by HNTB, a Kansas City, Missouri-based company, has been recommended from among four proposals for a consulting contract with the state to oversee a proposed $7.6 billion public-private partnership to relieve congestion on Interstate 270 and Interstate 495. The contract to oversee the toll commuter lanes work is being awarded through a waiver of the state’s traditional competitive bid process, allowing the department to move faster on projects deemed to require an alternative approach. The waiver was authorized by Rahn.

A spokeswoman for Rahn did not respond to requests from a reporter for comment.

“It is this ‘first of’ nature project that has caused (the Department of Transportation) to look at innovative ways to bolster its ability to oversee and manage a project so large and complex,” the department wrote in documents submitted to the Board of Public Works.

The three-member panel, which is headed by Gov. Larry Hogan and includes Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, is scheduled to vote on the request to award the contract to HNTB at its Wednesday meeting.

The department said that the waiver is appropriate because of the “aggressive schedule” of the projects, which could potentially help attract Amazon and its HQ2 expansion.

“To meet the demands of the public, address and reduce the rising traffic congestion in Maryland’s most heavily traveled roads, to offer a more advantageous environment which attracts new businesses such as Amazon, and to control expenditures by innovatively using performance-based design and contracting methods for the design and construction phases of the project, an expedited selection process outweighs the benefits of a formal competitive process for the selection” of an engineering consultant,” the department wrote in documents submitted to the Board of Public Works.

The initial two-year contract — which does not include proposals to widen the Baltimore-Washington Parkway — calls for two renewal periods totaling an additional seven years at an as-yet-to-be negotiated cost.

Rahn, who was named transportation secretary by Hogan in March 2015, served as a senior vice president for HNTB from 2010 until the time he joined the Maryland Department of Transportation.

The department waived a technical proposal phase and instead opted to award the contract based on the ranking of letters of interest from competing firms and then a presentation by each of four firms. Final scoring would give heavier weight to the final presentations.

A three-company consortium headed by HNTB finished second among the four proposal letters but was ranked first in its final presentation, according to the Department of Transportation.

The department, in its presentation to the Board, wrote that HNTB’s presentation “was exceptional — demonstrating a complete understanding of MDOT’s objectives and best addressing the criteria used to score” the technical presentation and interview.

“Combined, they represented to MDOT the best qualified team to undertake such a monumental program,” the department wrote.

Additionally, the department said, the HNTB bid offered the best minority- and veteran-business inclusion plans.

The state called for a goal of 22 percent minority business participation and a 1 percent veteran-owned business participation.

HNTB, in its proposal to the state, stated it would exceed those goals by 3 percent. The department said the firm planned to meet the veteran-owned business goal.

Hogan announced the expansions in September as part of a larger $9 billion highway congestion relief proposal.

The I-495 and I-270 legs of the plan would encompass approximately 75 miles of highway and potentially affect 500,000 people daily, according to the Department of Transportation.

Expansion of the Capital Beltway would occur between the American Legion Bridge and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. The state would add four lanes on I-270 between the Capital Beltway and Frederick, Hogan said.

Hogan’s plan also calls for four lanes additional lanes on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway between Baltimore City and Washington. In order to build the lanes, the state would need to obtain the transfer of portions of the highway from the U.S. Department of the Interior to the state.

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