Streams

Troubled Silver Spring Transit Center Could Open Next Year

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 - 07:12 AM

WAMU

The Silver Spring Transit Center, years behind schedule and about $15 million over budget, finally may be ready to open to the public next year after additional repair work, Montgomery County, Md. officials announced on Tuesday.

“The crack sealing and repair is underway right now,” said David Dise, the top county official overseeing the completion of the transit hub plagued by structural problems connected to its design and construction. Dise, who heads the county’s department of general services, said a special concrete overlay cannot be completed until the spring when the weather is warm enough again.

“The overlay’s purpose is to provide a consistent cover over the reinforcement both in the post-tensioning cables and steel reinforcing that is embedded in the slabs. The application of the overlay cannot be done in the winter time,” Dise said.

The county had planned to finish the overlay this year, but ran into delays.

“There were delays in getting the permitting drawings prepared by the design engineer. There was an extensive effort even before that to ensure the material that was selected – in this case latex-modified concrete – was the right material to use,” Dise said.

Dise, flanked by county attorneys, testified before the county council in the latest public update on progress in completing the concrete eyesore lying dormant in downtown Silver Spring, a planned transit hub that will connect commuters via Metrorail and bus, MARC, Amtrak, and taxis. He detailed ongoing efforts to repair extensive cracks in concrete and strengthen beams and joists so the transit center can handle the weight of commuter buses.

When asked if the public will be able to trust the transit center will be safe, Dise responded, “It will absolutely be safe. We know that it already handles its own weight and it already survived an earthquake. What we are doing right now is ensuring it will stand up under operational stresses.”

Predicting a completion date may be a trickier proposition than forecasting safe operations, given the repeated delays the county and contractors have encountered over the five years since breaking ground. Dise said the project may be ready to hand to Metro in April or May, and then the transit authority would have 30 days to complete its inspection and open the Silver Spring Transit Center to the public.

Earlier this year, Metro had threatened to pull out of the project, citing concerns about excessive long-term maintenance costs related to structural problems. But a Metro official on Tuesday sounded optimistic the transit authority would be willing to accept the transit center, provided it is ready to go.

“The objective is to provide any changes, any warrantees, any assurances to our board of directors that WMATA would not be taking on extraordinary costs above and beyond what WMATA had intended all along,” said Metro’s Charlie Scott to the county council.

Dise insisted the county would seek to recover the costs of the ongoing remediation work from its contractors. Parsons Brinckerhoff performed the design, Foulger Pratt was the lead construction contractor.

When asked how Parsons Brinckerhoff could have designed a faulty structure, Dise said, “That is a question we have asked Parsons Brinckerhoff --how this could have occurred? -- and that is an ongoing question. They have given us any number of answers.”

Foulger Pratt has claimed it simply followed the designs it was given when pouring the transit center’s concrete. A Foulger Pratt spokeswoman declined to comment on Tuesday’s proceedings before the county council.

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