The Transurban team hires a toll lane contractor in Maryland

A private consortium announced Wednesday that it has selected a leading contractor to build toll lanes on a portion of Interstate 270 and the Capital Beltway in Maryland.

Australian toll road operator Transurban and Australian investment bank Macquarie announced they have formed a team of companies led by Los Angeles-based Tutor Perini Corp. selected to design and build the first 14-mile segment of toll lanes. It would include the western portion of Maryland’s Beltway, a new and wider American Legion Bridge, and I-270 between the Beltway and I-370.

First, however, Transurban would need to secure a 50-year contract with the Maryland Department of Transportation for the private consortium to fund, build and operate the toll lanes in exchange for retaining most of the toll revenue.

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said adding privately funded toll lanes for motorists looking to buy their way out of traffic jams is the only way the state can do to achieve significant congestion relief. Opponents, meanwhile, say widening the highways would cause too much environmental damage and underperform local transport, while tolls would be too expensive for many motorists.

According to the project’s final environmental impact statement, MDOT has estimated the cost of the first phase of construction to be between US$3.75 billion and US$4.25 billion.

The project received a decisive boost in August when the Federal Roads Administration approved its environmental study. Opponents said the analysis was flawed and threatened lawsuits.

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The project’s backers would have to sign a 50-year deal with the state’s Public Works Agency, which approves large-scale contracts, before the temporary Hogan leaves office in January. Otherwise, a new governor could block, change, or slow down the toll lane plan. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wes Moore and Republican nominee Dan Cox have said they would consider major changes to the proposal.

Transurban spokeswoman Tanya Sheres said the company’s team, Accelerate Maryland Partners, is working with MDOT on a deadline for submitting its contract offer.

If the board rejected a contract proposal, the state would have to reimburse the Transurban-led team for up to $50 million of its planning costs, according to a pre-development agreement the state signed in August 2021.

The lack of a lead contractor for the Transurban team was the focus of a bid protest by Spanish construction company Cintra, which lost to Transurban in the pre-development agreement. The protest pending in court alleges in part that the Transurban team’s lack of a construction partner violated the state’s bidding rules for the project. MDOT has denied the claims and Transurban has defended MDOT’s procurement process.

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In a statement, Pierce Coffee, president of Transurban North America, called Tutor Perini “the right partner” for a large project that “requires a strong team with a track record of collaboration and innovation.”

Tutor Perini’s team will work with Transurban to “add value and efficiencies in the design, pricing and delivery of the project” as part of the 50-year contract proposal, according to the Transurban team.

In the statement, Tutor Perini CEO Ronald Tutor said the company brings “a strong record of meeting or exceeding project participation targets for disadvantaged companies” and “the strength” of its unionized and non-unionized contractors.

Maryland Board of Directors approves first contract to develop toll lanes for Beltway, I-270

Tutor Perini had delays and cost overruns on other projects.

In 2019, a Washington state jury rejected the company’s claim that the state was responsible for more than $300 million in cost overruns on a highway project after a massive tunnel boring machine struck and ruptured a pipe, resulting in a delay of 2 1/2 years. according to that Seattle Times. The company’s contract to build part of California’s bullet train project had grown from $1 billion to $2.4 billion by the end of 2021, mostly due to change orders Los Angeles Times.

Construction experts say highly complex mega-projects often go over budget or behind schedule due to unforeseen issues or, in some cases, inaccurately low bids.

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When asked about Tutor Perini’s cost overruns and delays on other projects, Sheres said, “It is not uncommon for a developer of large infrastructure projects to have overcome challenges in multi-year, multi-billion dollar projects in changing macroeconomic and political landscapes.”

Early collaboration on the Maryland toll lane plan, Sheres said in an email, will “identify, manage and map risks early in the project schedule.”

As part of the toll lanes proposal, the private consortium would add two High Congestion (HOT) toll lanes in each direction to both highways. The first segment would include the Beltway between the Virginia side of a new and wider American Legion Bridge and the exit to Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda, and I-270 south of I-370. One of the I-270 HOT lanes would come from a converted carpool lane. The regular lanes would be relocated but will remain free.

Tutor Perini’s team includes a subsidiary, WisconsinLunda Construction and O&G Industries of Connecticut. Centerville, Virginia-based Parsons Corp. will lead the team’s design work, Transurban said

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