Metro’s Office of the Inspector General will take over the agency’s investigation into flawed concrete in phase 2 of the Silver Line, the Dulles corridor extension being overseen by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, the transit agency said Wednesday.
Inspector General Geoff Cherrington said in a news release that his office will conduct the probe examining the concrete flaws revealed in May, when a whistleblower’s lawsuit alleging test-doctoring and manipulation of project materials became public. In all, 1,500 precast panels were said to be in question, and 20 percent contained flaws. The panels now require a sealant to prevent water intrusion and other types of damage.
Andrew Nolan, 28, the former quality control manager of Universal Concrete, the company in question, pleaded guilty in federal court last month to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in falsifying test data so the concrete passed inspection and for ordering others to do the same.
Cherrington said his review will encompass factors such as concrete quality and construction practices, along with contract compliance and whether construction problems could lead to unintended future spending. While MWAA is overseeing the project’s construction, the six-station extension is expected to be transferred to Metro upon its estimated 2020 completion date.
“We are initiating this review to ensure that WMATA — and by extension, its funding jurisdictions and the region’s taxpayers — can be confident that they will be receiving a quality project that is safe and reliable for rail operations,” Cherrington said in a statement. “In addition, we want to clearly understand what, if any, long-term expense risks are out there as a result of necessary remedies to address these quality issues.”
Metro said it would independently review the concrete problems in May, when the whistleblower suit came to light after the U.S. Justice Department and the Virginia attorney general intervened. But the OIG said its probe will now overtake that investigation for cost-saving purposes.
The federal and state lawsuit against Universal Concrete continues separately.
“Metro welcomes the OIG’s review, and the General Manager shares the OIG’s interest in ensuring that the Silver Line contractor meets their obligations and delivers to Metro a finished project that is safe, reliable and maintainable,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.
Charles Stark, executive director of the Silver Line rail project, said project officials were not surprised by the IG’s announcement because they knew there was interest in looking into issues raised in the whistleblower lawsuit.
“We of course will extend complete cooperation and supply any information Metro’s IG might request,” Stark said. “We remain committed to turning over a safe and reliable product."