Maryland in sophomore PPP

The Maryland Transportation Authority has inched closer to its second public-private partnership. The agency awarded a 35-year contract to Spain's Grupo Areas to develop travel plazas across a major interstate.

The US state of Maryland has tapped Areas USA, a division of Spanish service areas operator Grupo Areas, to redevelop and operate two of its aging travel centres along the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway, which is also referred to as Interstate 95 (I-95), in the northern portion of the state.

The 35-year public-private partnership (PPP) project is expected to generate some $400 million in revenue for the state as well as add hundreds of local jobs to the area. The Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) and Areas USA are conducting final due diligence on the PPP contract. 

Under the agreement, Areas USA will invest some $56 million to redesign and rebuild a pair of travel plazas – the aging Maryland House and Chesapeake House, which are travel rest stops along I-95. Once the construction is complete, the investor will be responsible for operating and maintaining the facilities, while Maryland retains ownership and oversight of the welcome centres and rest areas for travellers. 

“By joining forces with the private sector we can generate the type of investment needed in these tough economic times that will allow us to build the infrastructure we need and create jobs,” Mary Beyer Halsey, an MDTA board member and co-chair of the committee overseeing the PPP travel plaza initiative, said in a press release.

The deal follows in the footsteps of a $178 million rest-stop lease awarded to the Carlyle Group by the state of Connecticut in 2009 – the first ever deal of its kind. But the transaction is also notable for the state of Maryland, as it represents its second PPP following the Seagirt Marine Terminal project, located in the Port of Baltimore.

The total cost of the rest areas PPP was not disclosed and MDTA officials could not be reached for comment.