HMSHost cries foul over Maryland PPP

The Maryland-based company is contesting the state’s decision to grant a long-term public-private partnership contract for the refurbishment of a pair of rest areas along Interstate 95 to Spain's Grupo Areas .

Bethesda, Maryland-based HMSHost, a food and retail service provider for travellers, is contesting a 35-year public-private partnership (PPP) contract that the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) awarded to a Spanish firm for the redevelopment of a pair of rest stops along Interstate 95 (I-95).

HMSHost already operates the aging travel stops and says the contract, which was granted to Spain’s Grupo Areas last month, was awarded in an unfair fashion. The Maryland firm, which along with two other proposers was invited for interviews by the MDTA, has since filed a formal bid protest against the state agency. MDTA said in a previous statement it expected to generate some $400 million in revenue from the PPP contract.

HMSHost invested $800,000 on proposals in response to each of the state’s two Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for the rest areas. The first search, which occurred in 2010, was abandoned amid a weak response from the private sector.

According to HMSHost’s complaint, MDTA broke its own guidelines for the RFP evaluation and selection process. The point of contention for HMSHost is the Spanish developer’s proposal, which, according to the local service provider, Grupo Areas was able to modify in January after submitting the original bid in November 2011.

HMSHost contends the “MDTA should […] ultimately rescind its decision to award the I-95 PPP to Areas,” according to the complaint, which goes on to say:  “(1) MDTA did not treat HMSHost fairly and equally with the winning proposer by depriving HMSHost of its right to negotiate and/or modify its proposal, and (2) HMSHost reserves the right to file additional protests as more information concerning the procurement becomes known.” 

An HMSHost spokesperson told Infrastructure Investor:  “HMSHost was surprised that we were not offered an opportunity to submit a Best and Final Offer (BAFO), since the RFP contemplated that, and since it was clear that the RFP allowed BAFOs to modify original proposals. At this point, we believe all proposers should be able to submit a BAFO, or, the process should be thrown out and started over [again].”

HMSHost executives met with Maryland state legislators on Tuesday. MDTA declined to comment at this time.