Silver Spring Transit Center repairs to be expedited

April 18, 2013

Montgomery County officials, who said last week that repairs to the Silver Spring Transit Center would begin in late summer, are trying to accelerate that timetable to increase chances of completing the work while temperatures are mild.

County General Services Director David Dise, whose agency is coordinating the repair effort, said the goal is to avoid pouring concrete in cold weather, when “curing,” or hardening of slabs, requires special procedures.

“We don’t want to lose the momentum on the weather,” Dise told a group of Silver Spring activists at a meeting Wednesday night.

Concrete is at the heart of the problems that plague the nearly $120 million train-and-bus hub that sits fenced off and unused on Colesville Road in downtown Silver Spring. Concerns about cracking, thickness and strength of concrete have thrown the project more than two years off schedule and tens of millions of dollars over budget. Some of the concrete at issue was poured in cold weather, and KCE Structural Engineers, the engineering consultants hired by the county, said last month there was evidence that cold curing protocols were not followed.

Dise said the county will meet jointly next week with representatives of Parsons Brinckerhoff, the center’s designer, and Foulger-Pratt, the general contractor, in an effort to expedite the fixes. Dise told the County Council last week that Parsons Brinckerhoff would develop a design for repairs and submit it to Foulger-Pratt and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority — which would operate the facility — for review.

Tracking the transit center’s cost

But the county wants to move to a “design-build” approach in which engineers and construction contractors work in concert. The method will save time, Dise said, although he would not commit to a specific start or finish date for the work.

He also said having everybody around the same conference table might also help abate the finger-pointing that has emerged since the report by KCE cited serious problems in design, construction and inspection of the center.

“It enhances mutual responsibility,” Dise said.

Dise made his comments at the Silver Spring Civic Building, where a group of activists expressed deep displeasure with the county’s inability to finish the project.

“We’re really frustrated and disappointed,” said Evan Glass, chairman of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board.

Several community leaders questioned the wisdom of the county retaining the same contractors whose work was deficient to perform repairs. Dise said the firms know the project intimately and that bringing in new companies would take too long.

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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