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Problems still plague Silver Spring Center

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Published on: Thursday, March 21, 2013

By Holden Wilen

SILVER SPRING - Problems in the design, construction and inspection of the Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center continue to plague the county. A recent report released Tuesday by an independent consultant says the center does not meet Montgomery County’s safety and durability requirements.

The report from KCE Structural Engineers, P.C. reveals the facility contains serious design defects which include excessive cracking, missing post-tensioning cables, inadequate reinforcing steel and concrete which is not strong enough or thick enough. The designer for the transit center was Parsons Brinckerhoff and the general contractor was Foulger-Pratt. Inspections firm, Robert B. Balter Co.; and other subcontractors were also implicated in the report.

“At worst, if no changes are made some of the facility’s elements may not withstand the loads they are intended to support, thereby putting the many users of the center at potential risk,” said County Executive Ike Leggett.

More information will come out during the next few weeks about how long completion should take, and how much it will cost, County Councilman Phil Andrews said. He assumes the county will look to recover the costs from whoever is responsible for the mistakes in construction and design. He said he hopes there will be no taxpayer cost except for potential legal costs.

Leggett said the county will ensure repairs are made to open the transit center as soon as possible and he will pursue every legal and administrative action available to him.

“It is my intent to resolve the remediation and compliance issues on the Silver Spring Transit Center,” Leggett said, “while we move, separately, to address the issues of fault and liability.”

Phil Andrews said he was very concerned to learn the problems are worse than originally thought. He also said he was concerned because the problems involve safety. It’s clear, he said, there will be delays in the completion of the transit center because substantial changes must be made for safety. The full cost for the transit center as of May 2012 is more than $112 million. Construction began in 2008 and it was supposed to be completed in 2011.

“It won’t be done until the fall, that’s for sure,” Andrews said. I think it’s very disappointing that this project isn’t ready. It wasn’t ready when it was supposed to have been, and it still isn’t ready.

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