Montgomery council members seek independent review of transit center repairs

April 3, 2013

Two Montgomery County Council members called on the council Wednesday to hire its own independent expert to evaluate the county’s plans for repair work on the troubled Silver Spring Transit Center.

County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and his staff are developing repair plans for the $119 million bus-and-train hub based on a study he commissioned from KCE Structural Engineers. The firm announced last month that the building had weak concrete and inadequate supporting steel in some locations.

Council members Valerie Ervin (D-Eastern County) and Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) said that the complexity of structural problems requires that the council have outside help from an industry expert to assess Leggett’s plan.

“The complexity and scale of this project requires an independent evaluation of the information we are being provided,” Ervin said in a letter to Council President Nancy Navarro (D-Mid-County). “None of us are structural engineers or construction experts, and Councilmembers need to ensure that the remediation proposals we receive from the County Executive will achieve a safe, functional transit center for residents in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible.”

Floreen said the idea was not to duplicate KCE’s work or reinvestigate the project, but to have the council’s expert as a check on the executive branch’s efforts to fix the structure.

Tracking the transit center’s cost

“This is not meant to criticize the county executive,” Floreen said in an interview. “We internally don’t have the staff to address this subject.”

Navarro said she would review the proposal and determine if there was sufficient support on the council. But she said she was reluctant to spend more money on consultants. The KCE report cost $1.7 million.

“We just spent $2 million on a report delineating a remediation plan,” Navarro said.

On Tuesday, the council approved $7.5 million to cover the cost of delays caused by construction problems. Earlier this week, Navarro asked Leggett’s office to provide regular briefings on the progress of repairs for the center, which is more than $80 million over budget and two years behind schedule. Leggett spokesman Patrick Lacefield said his office was prepared to comply with the request.

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.
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