BPW Vote Set Weds. on Toll Lane Contracting

“A License To Loot the State Treasury”

Press Release
December 2, 2019
 
The menace to Maryland taxpayers and commuters from high-toll “Lexus Lanes” could be about to explode. On Wednesday the state Board of Public Works is scheduled to vote on changes in how the state will hand out $11 billion in contracts for toll lanes on I-270 and the Washington Beltway. Comptroller Peter Franchot has requested a two-week delay, but as of 4:45 this afternoon the item remains on the BPW agenda.
 
Under the procurement method now proposed by the Hogan administration, bidders would have only one month to write proposals for multi-billion-dollar contracts. And investment firms could submit bids without naming their construction subcontractors -- leaving state officials unable to judge the qualifications of the company that will actually do the work. 
 
“This scheme is a license to loot the state treasury,” Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalition chair Ben Ross said. “The slap-dash written proposal process leaves no time to do anything but rubber-stamp deals cut earlier behind closed doors. It is an invitation to favoritism and contractor incompetence.” Ross pointed out that the state will be represented in its secret negotiations with bidders by its $90 million project management contractor, RS&H, on whose board sits the high-powered Republican lobbyist-fundraiser Maria Cino
 
“Another rush to judgment is in the works, without oversight, accountability or transparency,” said MTOC vice-chair Gary Hodge. The consequences of dubious contracting will emerge during the term of the next governor, he added, in the form of cost overruns, demands for state money, and endless construction-related traffic backups. “The stakes are too high and the consequences too great for millions of Marylanders.” 
 
Comptroller Franchot, widely seen as the swing vote on this project on the Board of Public Works, has expressed interest in running for governor in 2022.  “When construction starts in earnest, Governor Hogan's term will be over. Does the Comptroller really want this misguided scheme to roll out on his watch?” Hodge asked.