The Washington Post

General contractor predicts Silver Spring Transit Center won’t open until mid-2014

The Silver Spring Transit Center was found to be unsafe and in need of major repairs. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

The Silver Spring Transit Center will likely not be open until next summer at the earliest, the general contractor for the troubled project told Montgomery County officials Tuesday, calling a repair plan favored by the building’s designer “technically ill-advised and ill-conceived.”

Foulger-Pratt’s projection of a mid-2014 opening is the most specific offered by a major player in the project since an independent consultant reported in March that the $120 million bus-and-train hub was unsafe and unusable without major repairs.

As the general contractor, Foulger-Pratt is responsible by contract for performing all repairs specified by the county and its project designer, Parsons Brinckerhoff. It is not clear when Foulger-Pratt will be able to start that work.

David Dise, Montgomery County’s general services director who is responsible for overseeing the repairs, did not agree with Foulger-Pratt’s assessment, but he declined to offer an alternative date for when the transit center might open. He told the County Council that a series of variables, including the weather, completion of design documents and acquisition of permits, made it impossible to set a date yet.

Foulger-Pratt’s mid-2014 prediction came in a letter — and an accompanying news release — taking issue with the county’s selection of latex-modified concrete (LMC) to cover cracks and exposed steel supports on the second and third decks of the three-level facility.

Concrete issues at the Silver Spring Transit Center

Last week, in a memo to County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and Council President Nancy Navarro, Dise strongly implied that latex-modified concrete, a widely used roadway sealant, was the consensus choice of a working group of county officials, contractors, subcontractors, engineers and designers planning the repairs.

But Bryant Foulger, managing principal of Foulger-Pratt, took exception to Dise’s memo. “This impression is not correct — as you well know,” Foulger said in his letter to the county. He said that his company and two subcontractors, Facchina Construction and SGH, “have repeatedly advised against installation of the LMC overlay being insisted upon” by the building’s designer, Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Foulger called latex-modified concrete “technically the wrong approach” for the project because it failed to address “underlying design issues causing the concrete cracking.” His letter did not specify the issues, but two engineering firms, one hired by the county and the other by Metro, concluded in studies that the design was overly rigid, like a snare drum tuned too tightly. Parsons has declined to comment on the specifics of its design.

Jerry Jannetti , Parsons Brinckerhoff vice president, said Tuesday he had not yet seen Foulger’s letter and that he would defer any comment.

Foulger also said that it was “completely disingenuous” of Dise to say in last week’s memo to Leggett and Navarro that it would take six weeks to prepare the center’s surface and lay down the latex-modified concrete. He said the requirements of such a covering would likely delay the opening until summer 2014 and “unnecessarily significantly increase the cost of the Project to the County.” Foulger did not specify his preferred option but has, in the past, suggested patching selected areas with an epoxy bonding.

Dise said he was comfortable with the working group’s selection of LMC and that Foulger’s letter was essentially a strategic move to protect its interests in future negotiations or litigation. “It’s a letter to be expected,” Dise said.

Some council members weren’t so sanguine.

“There are some pretty powerful statements that are of great concern to me,” said Council member Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring). “I don’t think you should pretend that it’s not a big deal.”

Council member Phil Andrews (D-Rockville-Gaithersburg), reflecting on the nearly five years since the start of construction, said: “The World Trade Center was built in less time.”

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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