Berliner: Parties responsible should bear cost for Silver Spring Transit Center maintenance -- Gazette.Net



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Montgomery County Councilman Roger Berliner said Thursday that after Silver Spring Transit Center repairs are complete, maintenance should fall not on the shoulders of the county or Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, but on the contractors responsible for the cracks in the building’s concrete.

The builders of the $120 million center have started repairing concrete sections. WMATA has said the repairs could increase the long-term maintenance costs of the building.

Rodrigo Bitar, assistant general manager for WMATA, appeared at a County Council briefing Tuesday afternoon on the center. He said the agency is concerned that the root problem for the excessive cracking has not yet been identified, which he said could affect the longevity of the structure.

At the briefing, Bitar read a long statement that 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.

Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda was one of a few county council members who voiced concerns about the project at the briefing.

Berliner said Thursday he did not agree with WMATA’s “posturing” during conversations with the county.

He said that a certain level of candor helps alert parties that “they need to be real.”

“This can’t be about posturing,” Berliner said. “I think it is inevitable that we will have to have a serious conversation with respect to the maintenance issues. What I object to is using these disputes as a way of advancing that conversation.”

WMATA officials would not immediately comment on the statement.

David Dise, director of the county’s Department of General Services, told the County Council on Tuesday that contractors were supposed to submit a finalized schedule at a project work group meeting Thursday. The work group, which meets every week, comprises the county, WMATA and contractors on the project.

Repairs to the center could be complete before the end of the year, he said. If the repairs are finished on time, the center could open this year, county spokesman Patrick L. Lacefield said.

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.

Before stepping down as the Montgomery County member on the Metro board about a month ago, former U.S. Rep. Michael Barnes (D) said he was part of discussions with WMATA’s general manager about Metro operations, including conversations on the Silver Spring Transit Center.

“I think Metro, in the end, will want to take it over, but they want to be assured that they’re not taking on a lot more trouble in terms of maintenance and repair in the future than they bargained for. I think it’s reasonable that Metro wants to be assured,” Barnes said. “ ... As a Metro user and somebody who would use that transit center, I hope it’s finished and opened quickly and that we can all take advantage of it.”



krose@gazette.net