The Washington Post

Council members call for IG probe of Silver Spring Transit Center

Two Montgomery County Council members called Tuesday for an Inspector General’s investigation into the $120 million Silver Spring Transit Center project, which has been beset by delays, construction defects and cost overruns.

Council members Hans Riemer (D-At-Large) and Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) proposed adding $100,000 to Montgomery County Inspector General Edward Blansitt’s budget to conduct the probe.

“Like you, I am very troubled by the problems at the Silver Spring Transit Center. Its history of delays, defects, failures and cost overruns is deeply concerning to our residents,” Riemer said in a letter circulated to council members. Riemer said Blansitt’s expertise in” financial practices, management processes and contractor conduct” make him a good candidate for an independent probe into the train and bus hub.

The facility was scheduled to open more than two years ago, but remains unusable without major repairs, due to begin sometime this summer.

“It is in our residents’ interest that the Inspector General examine all events pertaining to the problems at the transit center so that accountability can be exercised and we can ensure that such a disaster never happens again,” Riemer wrote. He said Ervin, “a strong proponent” of transparency in probing construction and design issues at the center, also supports an IG’s investigation.

Concrete issues at the Silver Spring Transit Center

The inspector general is appointed by the council but functions independently, submitting an annual work plan. But Blansitt has expressed to council members an interest looking at the transit center project.

The additional $100,000 would have to be approved by the full council as part of the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Patrick Lacefield, spokesman for County Executive Isiah Leggett, said Leggett would welcome a study of how county practices on big public works projects could be improved going forward. But an investigation into the construction and design problems at the center would “unintentionally insert the inspector general into what could possibly be litigation” between the county and construction contractors.

Lacefield added that $100,000 was not sufficient funding to mount a timely investigation.

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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