Metro could walk away from taking over Silver Spring Transit Center


The Silver Spring Transit Center was found to be unsafe and in need of major repairs. The $112 million bus and train hub is two years behind schedule and over budget. (Sarah L. Voisin/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Metro could walk away from the troubled Silver Spring Transit Center if it isn’t satisfied with repairs Montgomery County will have to make to the $112 million bus-and-train hub, an agency spokesman said Wednesday.

Metro was supposed to assume control of the three-level structure at least two years ago. But an engineering report released Tuesday found the facility unusable and unsafe in its current condition, plagued by design and construction errors that led to cracked, inadequately strengthened concrete. The opening, delayed several times, has been postponed indefinitely, as officials devise a plan to address the problems.

“If we’re not satisfied [with it] we won’t accept it,” said Dan Stessel, Metro’s chief spokesman and director of communications. “If the facility is not safe or there are issues regarding its long-term maintainability, we have the right to not accept it.”

Stessel added that even if the current design and construction issues are resolved, the transit agency might pursue an agreement that would indemnify it from the costs of any future problems. Such a plan, Stessel said, could also deal with matters such as maintenance and extended warranties.

Patrick Lacefield, spokesman for County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), said Montgomery officials had expected that Metro would raise such concerns and were prepared to discuss them.

“We’re going to be sitting down and talking with them on this,” Lacefield said. “We’re committed to giving them a facility that has the safety and durability and life span that they want.”

The report, commissioned by the county from KCE Structural Engineers, found that contractors, led by Parsons Brinckerhoff and Foulger-Pratt, did not follow Metro design criteria specified in the contract. Among the omissions, according to consultants, were failure to follow proper time and temperature requirements for “curing,” or hardening the concrete after it was poured, and to adequately protect it from corrosion.

KCE said that, as currently constructed, the building’s useful life span is less than the 50 years provided for by the contract.

County officials said Metro signed off on the design of the transit center. But the agency raised concerns about the condition of the concrete as early as summer. Notes from a July 20 meeting of project managers say: Metro “does not agree that the strength of the deck is adequate, and wants to know why the deck has cracked and continues to crack.”

The persistent cracking led the county to hire KCE, which eventually took more than 70 samples of concrete from the transit center. Tests showed that concrete supplied by Facchina, a LaPlata company, had an average strength of 6,970 pounds per square inch. The contract called for a strength of 8,000 psi. The concrete was also not thick enough at various locations.

Facchina is a prominent contractor that has worked on numerous high-profile construction projects in the Washington region.

It is part of a consortium competing for a contract to design and build the second phase of Metro’s Silver Line to Dulles Airport.

See the report: The opening of the $112 million bus-and-train hub, already two years behind schedule, is on hold indefinitely.

Ronn Filley, Facchina’s director of human resources and IT services, declined Wednesday to comment on any aspect of the transit center, referring all questions to Foulger-Pratt, the general contractor.

“We’re just a subcontractor,” he said.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.
Dana Hedgpeth is the Washington Post’s lead reporter in covering the Metro rail and bus systems in the D.C. region and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that runs them.
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