Two Montgomery County Council members are seeking more independent analysis on the Silver Spring Transit Center, but a third criticized his colleagues because the request duplicates the work of a $2 million report.
Montgomery County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring said Thursday morning that she and Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park are requesting an independent expert be present when they receive briefings from county staff.
The nearly $120 million center originally was supposed to open in 2011. A report last month revealed structural flaws that have pushed back its opening indefinitely.
“We are not staffed up at the council office to handle the magnitude of issues we have to decide on,” Ervin said Thursday. “... We have received a $2 million report and we believe we need to have our own expert that can speak to us about the kind of decisions we have to make.”
Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda said he does not support the request because the council already has an independent assessment of the transit center’s problems.
“I don’t think it is the role of the council to now duplicate that — which it cannot do at anything other than an exorbitant price, which could only lead to possible questions that could only lead to a divided government, which can only lead to potentially more liability for our county,” Berliner said Thursday.
Berliner — who chairs the council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee — said he didn’t think other council members support the plan.
Councilman George Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park also opposes the idea.
“An independent consultant hired by the county in great cost in time and money has already provided a road map to repair this facility,” Leventhal said. “That’s what the county should do: Repair the facility and make sure taxpayers are not on the hook for the cost.”
A majority of the council would have to support hiring an expert, which would be chosen through an RFP process, Ervin said.
She and Floreen requested the review Wednesday, a day after the council approved $7.5 million more for the center. County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) sought the funding to cover cost overruns and stormwater management, utility relocation and other items that were not included in the original contract.
The council approved the new funding unanimously, but not before Ervin questioned whether the county should add any more taxpayer money to the project. The cost had been $112 million and with Tuesday’s action, the total cost nears $120 million.
The groundbreaking for the center, at Colesville Road and Wayne Avenue, was in 2008. A series of cracks found in the structure and disparities in the thickness of the structure’s concrete rescheduled the opening for the fall.
A March 18 report by Washington, D.C.-based KCE Structural Engineers described “serious design and construction defects” that compromise the center’s structural integrity, longevity and safety.
It is still unclear how much the repairs detailed in KCE’s report will cost.
Foulger-Pratt Cos. Managing Principal Bryant Foulger told The Gazette last month the project has been “fraught with mismanagement” from the start. He said he was also “shocked” and “disappointed” by the inconsistencies between the county’s description of the KCE report and what the report actually says.
“The county executive in his statement essentially indicts us, tries us, and convicts us without realizing or understanding that there is another very compelling side to the story,” Foulger said.
The county has since announced that Parsons Brinckerhoff — the project’s original engineer — will design the fixes detailed in KCE’s report. Parsons Brinckerhoff Vice President Jerry Jannetti confirmed his firm’s intent to continue working with the county on the project, saying “Parsons Brinckerhoff is the engineer of record and it is our intent to be the engineer of record in the future” in a press release.
Once it is open, the transit center will be a three-level, state-of-the-art transit hub that connects MARC commuter trains, Metro, taxis, and Ride On and intercity buses.
Read more about the Silver Spring Transit Center at www.gazette.net/transit.