Maryland bungles I-95 travel plaza contract

March 13, 2012

In Ted Venetoulis' recent op-ed about public/private partnerships (P3s), he correctly points out that they can be a good way to get important work done through "transferring the construction and operating risk to a private company." But Maryland's recent decision to award the contract for the travel plazas is the wrong example for him to use.

What is happening with this P3, which is now under legal challenge, illustrates their risks as well, which occur through obfuscation by bidders, lack of transparency of the process, and state agencies ignoring their own rules without oversight from the taxpayers who will be most affected. Even the Seagirt contract, which Mr. Venetoulis lauds, is not the best example of the process working since it attracted only one bidder.

As Mr. Venetoulis points out, "Like the Seagirt agreement, the state will receive a share of the gross revenue." But in this case, according to an economic study by the Sage Policy Group, the share of gross revenue appears to be grossly overestimated. The Sage study also points out that MDTA is settling for a promised commitment from Areas USA, which has little or no guaranteed rent to the state.

In Maryland, the P3 game is being played with no rules. The state should take the recommendation of a panel headed by Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and benchmark the mature P3 models of Canada to develop a valuable, transparent and fair delivery system of risk transfer for the public and private sectors. The taxpayers, Maryland businesses and the state deserve better than this.

Michael A. Jones, Bethesda

The writer is a vice president for HMSHost, which is challenging the travel plaza contract in court.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.