Silver Spring Transit Center taking too long to build, councilmembers say -- Gazette.Net


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The Pentagon in Washington, D.C. The Eiffel Tower in Paris. The Empire State Building in New York.

These were among the examples Silver Spring resident Darian Unger presented to the Montgomery County Council as taking less time to complete than the construction of Silver Spring Transit Center.

“This is beyond ridiculous,” Unger said. “… It erodes people’s confidence in government and the ability of public officials to build or oversee an important project like this.”

His request for stronger council oversight of the transit center project was among the eight comments and questions presented to the council at their hour-long town hall Wednesday night at the AFI Silver Theatre in downtown Silver Spring.

The Silver Spring Transit Center is an estimated $112 million transportation project planned for the corner of Colesville Road and Wayne Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. Once it is open, the transit center would be a three-story, state-of-the-art transit hub that connects MARC commuter trains, Metro, taxis, and Ride On and intercity buses.

The groundbreaking for the project began in 2008 and the center was expected to open in 2011. A series of cracks found in the middle and upper levels of the structure and disparities in the thickness of the structure have delayed the project’s opening by nearly two years and is now slated to open by fall 2013. The county has a $1.785 million contract with third-party consultant Washington, D.C.-based KCE Structural Engineering for a report that would detail potential solutions to the concrete issues.

Councilman Hans Riemer (D-At-large) of Takoma Park was the first to respond to Unger’s concern as a member of the county council’s transportation committee. He said the council is “trying to avoid jumping to conclusions” and that his committee will be discussing litigation and, hopefully, the findings of the report next week in closed session.

“I think it’s intolerable that it’s taken this long,” Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At-large) of Garrett Park said of the transit center. “I think it’s been devastating to the community. ... It’s not okay for Silver Spring to have to suffer through this for as long as it’s had to. It should’ve been open years ago.”

Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring said she agreed with Unger.

“Someone is to blame. It will all be worked out, hopefully, for the benefit of the people who have to suffer through getting to work every day using the Metro,” Ervin said. “And, as you said, more and more people are throwing their hands up and saying … ‘I’ll just take my car.’”

“We’ve been waiting for a year. That’s unconscionable that we, the county council — the legislators that you elected, are waiting for the county executive and his team to tell us what went wrong,” Ervin added.

Other topics discussed were the need for space for the DTSS (Downtown Silver Spring) Teen Jamm youth performance group to hold their events, the need for streetlights along Sligo Creek Parkway for walkability and safety, the need for more nightlife in the downtown area, the request for an ombudsman to protect tenants against landlords, illegal dumping in county right of ways and rental affordability.

krose@gazette.net