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Silver Spring Transit Center: hard to know whether to laugh or cry

The troubled Silver Spring Transit Center has missed several opening dates. (Marc Fisher – Washington Post)
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A transportation advocacy group is trying to draw attention to the long-delayed Silver Spring Transit Center project by celebrating the fifth anniversary of when construction began.

What was supposed to be a two-year, $120 million project has been delayed indefinitely because of major construction and design flaws, including cracked concrete and other structural issues. There’s an ongoing debate among Montgomery County officials, Metro officials and the developer — Foulger Pratt — about how to fix the center, which is supposed to be a major hub for rail and bus traffic in the area, and who will pay for those fixes and for maintaining the center once it opens.

Hoping to inject a bit of humor into the situation, the Action Committee for Transit (ACT) on Thursday is launching a contest to guess when the center will open for bus service. Yes, Thursday, Sept. 26 — five years to the day from the groundbreaking that launched construction.

That 2008 groundbreaking itself was significantly delayed, ACT officials say — perhaps a harbinger of the struggles to come. In September, 2000, then-Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan announced that construction would soon begin, and the transit center would be open for business by 2003.

Ten years and several postponed opening dates later, construction continues. The site is cordoned off from the public by a chain-link fence.

ACT’s contest asks people to predict an actual opening date, and promises dinner for two at 8407 kitchen bar, a restaurant in downtown Silver Spring, as the prize for guessing correctly.

There’s one catch — the winner cannot claim his or her congratulatory dinner until the center actually opens.

Volunteers of ACT will pass out forms to enter the contest at the Transit Center from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on Thursday. Applications and rules are also available on their Web site.

In a news release, ACT president Tina Slater encouraged people to enter the contest, but cautioned, “We make absolutely no promises about when the prize will be awarded.”