It’s been called a mess, a disappointment and an outright safety hazard.
One day after a 100-page report was released detailing the extent of the problems at the Silver Spring Transit Center, community members and politicians say they are concerned about the structure’s safety and the unknown timeline of the project.
“It’s a huge mess,” said Tina Slater, president of Action Committee for Transit, a transportation activist group that has been demanding answers on the transit center for months. “I’m just really sorry that Sen. [Paul S.] Sarbanes’ name is attached to this debacle.”
The Silver Spring Transit Center, formally named the Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center — a $112 million transit hub project on the corner of Colesville Road and Wayne Avenue in downtown Silver Spring — is named for former Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D), the longest serving senator in state history.
The groundbreaking for the project was 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 so far.
But now that a report prepared by Washington, D.C.-based KCE Structural Engineers revealed the structure contains “serious design and construction defects” that compromise the center’s structural integrity, longevity and safety, it’s unclear when the center will be open for business.
While she is frustrated with the “errors and omissions” by the parties involved with the project’s construction, Slater said she was relived to see recommended solutions in the report.
“The public has just been inconvenienced for so long. Our priority must be to get this done because we value our reputation and good name,” Slater said. “I’m just relieved that the report has finally been delivered and I’m very grateful that the county posted it immediately on the website. That was truly a good step.”
Silver Spring resident Bruce Altevogt said he uses the Metro almost every day and finds the results of the report “very concerning.”
“A lot of money, time and effort has gone into developing the transit center and it is worrisome that after so many years we are left with an unsafe structure that — as currently constructed — will not serve the long term needs of the community,” Altevogt said, noting that he hopes the county can set and adhere to a timeline moving forward.
“I think we’re all disappointed that more needs to be done [and] that it will take longer,” Montgomery County Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda said Wednesday.
County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring said Wednesday that the report is only the first discussion of many surrounding the remediation of the Silver Spring Transit Center. She said the council is calling on County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) to lead the county through the process.
“It was a county project and I would like to just reiterate there have been thousands of area commuters who have been disadvantaged over the last few years waiting for the transit center to be complete,” Ervin said Wednesday. “And it’s those people, I believe, that deserve answers.”
Evan Glass, chairman of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board said he found the report “tremendously disappointing” for the community, noting that some have lost confidence in the process. He also stressed the importance of safety.
“We need to make sure that everybody that uses that facility for decades to come will be safe,” Glass said. “Unfortunately, it will take more time to see how those safety precautions will be met.”
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.
A copy of the report can be found on the county’s website.