The Justice Department has charged a Georgia construction firm with rigging a bid on a contract to pave a section of U.S. Route 40 in northeastern Maryland. The department's antitrust division Friday filed a criminal information in U.S. District Court in Baltimore charging Wright Contracting Co. of Columbus with conspiring to rig a bid, said U.S. Attorney J. Frederick Motz.

The charge was filed as part of a 19-state investigation of bid rigging by highway contractors.

The firm, which also has offices in Odenton, Md., was accused of intentionally submitting a high bid in 1979 for a contract to repave a section of the highway in Cecil County. The $1.75 million contract was awarded to the Baltimore contracting firm of E. Stewart Mitchell, whose owner, Barton S. Mitchell, pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the federal bid-rigging investigation. Mitchell served a five-month jail term and two of his companies paid fines totaling $600,000.

In the last decade, Wright Contracting has won 14 state paving contracts in Maryland worth more than $14.5 million.

Last November, Wright pleaded guilty in Georgia to a state charge of illegal bidding and paid a $10,000 fine.