County says Silver Spring Transit Center repairs could be finished this year -- Gazette.Net


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This story was corrected on July 25, 2013. An explanation follows this story.

Repairs to the Silver Spring Transit Center could be complete before the end of the year, county officials told the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday.

David Dise, director of the county’s Department of General Services, told the council contractors are supposed to submit a finalized schedule at a project work group meeting Thursday.

Dise said if work on a concrete overlay — which is supposed to remedy varying concrete thicknesses and cracking in the structure — is approved within a reasonable time frame and work begins in August, the repairs could be completed before the weather gets cold.

The work group, which meets every Thursday, comprises the county, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and contractors on the project.

Rodrigo Bitar, assistant general manager for WMATA, read a long statement on behalf of the agency, stating multiple times throughout Tuesday’s briefing that WMATA still wants to operate the facility. WMATA is concerned, however, that the root problem for the excessive cracking has not yet been identified, which he said could affect the longevity of the structure. Bitar said WMATA is committed to operating the facility as per its contract with the county only if it is assured of the longevity of the structure and will not be held liable for maintenance costs.

An agreement between the county and WMATA stipulates that the structure would have a life expectancy of 50 years.

Dise and the county maintain that the repairs they are engineering will ensure the longevity of the structure to 50 years, given regular maintenance, something Dise said WMATA agreed to and accounted for in its budget for the project.

“We believe that this has done what we expect it to do and achieve the results that were desired,” Dise said of the remediation plans.

One point of contention between the county and WMATA at the briefing was the use of slot stress testing — which tests load-bearing capacities to measure how the stress impacts the structure — to provide the best approach to repairing the facility.

Dise insisted the test was unnecessary because testing to evaluate the ground conditions of the structure have already happened at the facility. WMATA believes the test will provide the “best approach to conducting an analysis” of the root problem for cracking at the center. WMATA said it is not opposed to other types of testing, though no other examples were provided.

The test, according to officials, could cost up to $800,000, which Dise said would ultimately produce “inconclusive” results.

“When I read your responses, I do harken back to a time when it was made clear to our county that you really weren’t prepared to take on the responsibility to maintain this facility,” Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda said of the agency’s correspondence. “I believe your posture now is inextricably linked to that fundamental position.”

The county awarded the contracts to build the $120 million transit center, at Colesville Road and Wayne Avenue. According to the county’s contract with WMATA, the agency would then operate the facility. The center was slated to open in 2011.

Under county direction, workers are trying to repair individual “pour strips” — sections of concrete — that showed a series of cracks. The cracks were the result of a lack of reinforcement in the concrete, according to a contractor’s report delivered to the county in March, which further delayed the center’s opening.

Originally, the county was planning to completely remove and replace the pour strip sections that lacked reinforcement at the facility, county spokesman Patrick L. Lacefield said Monday.

But WMATA raised concerns that the work could produce further unanticipated stress to the structure. The agency asked the working group to look further at the issues, and the working group agreed WMATA was correct.

Instead of completely removing the concrete, workers could remove portions of the concrete, add reinforcements and then repour concrete. Now that the county has pushed forward with the alternative, the agency has “flipped,” saying the concrete sections should be removed entirely, Lacefield said.

“We reconsidered it in the first place because of them,” Lacefield said Monday. “Now they are saying it all needs to come out.”

Bitar, Dise and members of the county all agreed that it is in everyone’s best interest to “get the structure open as soon and safely as possible.”

The county is scheduled to brief the council in writing on Aug. 15 about the project.

krose@gazette.net

A previous version of this story stated that the county would brief the County Council on Aug. 15. The county is expected to brief the council in writing, as the council will be in recess July 31 through Sept. 10.