Wednesday, April 23, 2014 5:17 AM
Published on: Thursday, June 20, 2013
By Holden Wilen
ROCKVILLE – Construction to repair the Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center is set to begin in early July, according to David Dise, director of Montgomery County’s Department of General Services.
Construction defects in the $112 million facility include widespread cracking in the slabs, beams and girders on the second and third floors of the building, according to the county’s consultant, KCE Structural Engineers. Dise said a cooperative remediation working group made up of 39 participants from the county, the contractors and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has been meeting since late April to prepare a remediation plan.
The workgroup agreed on a design to fix the pour strips on the middle level of the facility, Dise said, and it has been submitted to the county’s Department of Permitting Services. The department will have two weeks to review the design, he said, and construction should begin with the pour strips in July.
Rodrigo Bitar, an assistant general manager for WMATA, said the agency remains committed to the project, but there are concerns about the future maintenance the building will require. Bitar said tests need to be performed, and then remediation plans designed based on the test results would need to be presented to WMATA before he could give a definitive answer about whether or not the agency would agree to accept the facility.
While Dise said testing is ongoing, Bitar said WMATA is concerned the county is more interested in temporarily mitigating the problems with the transit center rather than permanently resolving the issues.
“The concern we have is mitigations might result in extraordinary maintenance beyond what was expected to begin with,” Bitar said. “Our main concern is once we are operating from this facility, that 10 years down the road, we do not know what is going to happen. Hopefully the tests and remediation can give us a better understanding of what is to be expected structurally. Maybe then our maintenance concerns will be satisfied.”
Councilman Marc Elrich said he was having a hard time reconciling WMATA’s position because the county and the agency were partners in the beginning. While the design resulted in unpleasant results, he said, all parties involved share a mutual responsibility.
Though he understands WMATA’s concerns regarding maintainability, Elrich said he would have appreciated more cooperation from the agency.
“A more comforting tone that you all recognize that you are part of what happened and not just this standalone entity who is going to be given a building at the end of the day would be helpful,” Elrich said. “To simply say you are just going to walk is not a good first public statement.”
The county is committed to fixing the center, Dise said, and it will meet durability requirements required by the memorandum of understanding with WMATA.
Councilwoman Nancy Floreen said it was helpful to her to understand the real argument is about long-term maintenance, not structural reliability. It had been implied from previous WMATA statements, she said, that the agency believed the transit center would be untenable.
“They have an agreement to accept a building, and once they take it, they own it and are responsible for every little thing that goes wrong with it,” Floreen said. “Obviously they want to work that out in advance and make sure they are not on the hook for it. I can understand that.”