Continuing their commitment to attract private-sector expertise to address unique transportation challenges, the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Maryland Port Administration (MPA) recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking ideas and best practices for converting material dredged from Baltimore Harbor shipping channels into an environmentally-safe aggregate used in the construction / building industries. MPA is exploring the potential of developing a public-private partnership (P3) to take material already placed at the Cox Creek Dredged Material Containment Facility and convert it into a light-weight aggregate used in masonry blocks, concrete, hot-mix asphalt and geotechnical fill.

“Dredging is the lifeline of the Port of Baltimore,” said MPA Executive Director James J. White. “Without properly maintained shipping channels, the huge ships of today and supersized ones of tomorrow could not safely travel to and from the Port. Our long-term challenge, faced by Ports across the world, is where to place the material dredged from these shipping channels. By seeking the expertise from private industry, we can potentially increase our placement options by creating an environmentally-beneficial product, which may provide relief to the dwindling capacity at current sites like Cox Creek.”

With a 50-foot-deep shipping channel, Baltimore is one of only two ports on the U.S. East Coast currently able to handle large Super Post-Panamax ships that will use the newly enlarged Panama Canal when construction is completed by 2015. To maintain these shipping channels, approximately 1.5 million cubic yards of material must be dredged from the Baltimore Harbor annually. Dredged material from the Harbor is then placed at containment facilities, including Cox Creek and Masonville. While capacity remains at these sites, the MPA has been investigating best practices to increase dredged material placement capacity while researching possible beneficial reuse ideas. The MPA successfully completed a demonstration project in January 2012 by converting dredged material into a light-weight aggregate. The RFI will help the State determine if there is a cost effective and competitive marketplace for the environmentally-safe aggregate.

Responses to the RFI are due by January 24, 2014. The RFI does not constitute the commencement of any solicitation process, nor does it represent a commitment to proceed with any such solicitation in the future. Once the RFI responses have been received, MPA will analyze the industry feedback to determine the potential for a P3 and develop next steps for a possible solicitation process. MPA is targeting late winter 2014 for a decision regarding next steps for a potential solicitation process. The State encourages responses from a variety of firms, including: aggregate manufacturers; innovative technology firms; engineering and construction companies; financial investment firms, chemical / polymer / materials manufacturers; kiln manufacturers; and small, local and / or minority-owned businesses.

The RFI was issued under Maryland’s new P3 law, championed by Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown and signed into law by Governor Martin O’Malley, which provides the private sector with a stronger, more predictable and streamlined process for future P3 projects. It protects public assets, ensures a strong workforce, requires competitive bidding for all projects and allows the private sector to submit new “unsolicited” concepts to address Maryland’s infrastructure needs.

The P3 approach is commonly used for highways, airports and seaports. In Maryland, a P3 agreement is in place to deliver infrastructure improvements at MPA’s Seagirt Marine Terminal and is being used to redevelop the Maryland Transportation Authority’s Travel Plazas along I-95. The Maryland Transit Administration also is seeking a P3 to deliver the Purple Line – a 16-mile, east-west light rail line connecting Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.