This story was updated at 2:45 p.m. Sept. 23, 2022, to include comment from Tutor Perini.
Tutor Perini, a construction company and one of the largest general contractors in the United States, has been selected to build Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposed project to widen I-270 and parts of the I-495 and rebuild the American Legion Bridge.
The company was selected by Accelerate Maryland Partners, the consortium that has been tasked with working with the Maryland Department of Transportation to complete the project.
“Tutor Perini is proud to partner with AM Partners and MDOT to advance a project that maximizes travel benefits and long-term economic value, while minimizing impacts to the communities of the I-495 and I-270 corridors,” Ronald Tutor, chairman and CEO of Tutor Perini, said in a prepared statement.
Hogan’s office and a spokesman for Tutor Perini could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.
The road widening project has been controversial in Montgomery County, supported by many residents upcounty as a way to alleviate traffic between the northern part of the county and Washington D.C. and other parts of the region.
Many residents downcounty, along with transit and environmental advocates, believe the project won’t fix traffic problems in the long run, and that the toll lanes will be too expensive for many motorists to use.
Nearly five years ago, Hogan proposed widening all of the Beltway in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties as well as I-270, and installing two toll lanes in each direction to help pay for the project. Last year, the Maryland Department of Transportation announced that the first phase had been scaled back, and now only includes the replacement of the American Legion Bridge, the portion of I-270 that runs to the I-370 interchange and the westernmost section of I-495 that leads to I-270. The cost of this work is estimated to be between $3.75 billion and $4.25 billion.
Jorge Casado, a spokesman for Tutor Perini, declined to say how much the company would be bidding for its work, but said that would be available at the financial close of the project.
Recently, the Federal Highway Administration approved an environmental impact statement for the project, making it eligible for federal funding. The Board of Public Works — consisting of Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Dereck E. Davis — still needs to approve final contracts and requirements for the project to proceed. But the selection of a contractor indicates that Hogan may be able to accomplish that before he leaves office in early January.
County Executive Marc Elrich, a long-time opponent of the project, said during a news briefing Wednesday that he is not against replacing the American Legion Bridge, or addressing traffic issues on the western part of I-495 and I-270. But Hogan’s proposal is costly and not the appropriate way to handle the issue, he said.
Elrich added that he had concerns with how Tutor Perini had handled similar projects in the past. When asked to elaborate, he told reporters that he was concerned with how potential cost overruns would be handled.
“They seem to think cost overruns are a perfectly normal part of business,” Elrich said. “One of the things you try to do when you make a contract … is particularly if the other party is going to be doing the design, that the other party eats the cost overruns rather than having the state or county eat the cost overrun. So I’m just concerned that we’re just down the track, and the focus is solely on getting this thing approved.”
Casado, the spokesman for Tutor Perini, called Elrich’s claims inaccurate.
“It is widely known in the industry that the growth between a project’s original budget and what the final project costs ultimately end up being is the result of change orders that originate with and are directed by the customer, particularly on large, fixed-price projects,” Casado wrote. “Each time a change order is requested by a customer, Tutor Perini determines the cost of the change, as well as the additional execution time the change will require and then communicates the information to the customer.”
“Some in the media refer to this cost growth as ‘cost overruns,’ yet the fact is that the cost increases are due to new scope driven by the customers and are not true overruns,” he added.
The Board of Public Works has five more meetings scheduled for 2022 and another scheduled for Jan. 4, 2023 — perhaps the last one before Hogan leaves office. Both Wes Moore, the Democratic nominee for governor, and Dan Cox, the Republican nominee, have expressed concerns about how Hogan’s proposal is currently structured.