Montgomery County officials expect to know by the end of the month when a major and much-stalled transit hub in Silver Spring will open, an official said Wednesday.
The most recent one occurred in January, when the county alleged that construction workers improperly poured concrete on two floors of the building. Foulger-Pratt, the contractor in charge of construction, quickly fired back, saying the building was structurally sound.
Prior to January, county officials hoped for an opening in June, but the conflict caused them to postpone the start indefinitely. Since then, the officials have been working behind the scenes with Foulger-Pratt to settle the concrete issues. Publicly, however, some county officials have said they believed that a lawsuit was possible.
But David Dise, the county official who has overseen the project and has repeatedly declined to say whether the county would sue Foulger-Pratt, said in a interview Wednesday that he is “optimistic” that a lawsuit will not be filed.
The company and the county acknowledge that they must fix the concrete, and though they disagree on what the solution should be, they have asked a third-party company to assess the concrete and help them resolve the dispute.
The company, KCE Structural Engineers, has been working on the case for more than a month and will brief county staff members in a meeting next week, county officials said. Dise said Foulger-Pratt is paying the company for its work.
It remains unclear what the ultimate solution might be, and how long it would take. Concrete covering the facility’s reinforced steel structure was determined to be either too thin or thick and could degrade over time, threatening the integrity of the building.
Foulger-Pratt has proposed applying a sealant on emerging cracks and concrete covers on particularly vulnerable parts of the building, Dise said. Meanwhile, Parson Brinkerhoff, the engineer appointed to the project, suggested adding two inches of concrete to the second and third floors, where county officials discovered the problems.
Some community activists have said that they county has been particularly tight-lipped about the project. (In January, Foulger-Pratt urged the county to stop making public comments about it.) County officials say that until a solution is found, they will not announce a new opening date.
On Thursday, about a dozen organizers for Action Committee for Transit distributed flyers to Silver Spring commuters during the morning rush hour, urging the county to hold a public meeting on the project. “WE NEED ANSWERS,” the flyers said.
“It seems that things are in limbo, but we’re not really sure because it’s hard to get information,” said Tina Slater, the group’s president, who added that the delay has been a bother for Silver Spring commuters, who must travel up a hill from the Metro station to local bus stops.
Dise said he knows that people are “very anxious” about seeing the center open. “We’re looking forward to having a definitive date,” he said.
The county’s Web site says the transit center is 96.5 percent complete. Dise said that work remains on the glass canopies and the bike trails that converge at the structure, and that workers will finish components not involving the concrete this summer.
When it is completed, it is expected to serve 100,000 people a day and bring together Metro, MARC, Ride-On, taxis and intercity buses.