Foulger-Pratt ‘outraged’ about treatment from Montgomery over transit center -- Gazette.Net


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In his first public comment since the findings from a report were released last week, Foulger-Pratt Cos. Managing Principal Bryant Foulger said Thursday the original design of the Silver Spring Transit Center did not include post-tensioning in the large concrete slabs that the county called a “safety hazard” last week.

Post-tensioning, the process of strengthening concrete by tightening wires inside the concrete, would have made the structure more sturdy according to David Dise, the director of the county’s Department of General Services.

But the county claims post-tensioning was shown in some areas of drawings and specifications, as required by the county, all along, Dise said.

Foulger said Thursday he was disappointed the county did not share a copy of the report prepared by Washington, D.C.-based KCE Structural Engineers before its presentation to the Montgomery County Council on March 19. He also said he believes County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) should hear Foulger-Pratt’s side of the story. The county hired KCE to study the structure. Foulger-Pratt is the general contractor for the project.

The Silver Spring Transit Center — a $112 million transit hub project on the corner of Colesville Road and Wayne Avenue in downtown Silver Spring — was expected to open in 2011. A series of cracks found in the structure and disparities in the thickness of the concrete at the center have delayed the project’s opening by nearly two years so far — and it’s unclear when the center will be open for business.

The report prepared by KCE, released to the public March 19, revealed the Silver Spring Transit Center contains “serious design and construction defects” that compromise the center’s structural integrity, longevity and safety.

The county received a copy of KCE’s report March 18 and did not make the report findings public until it addressed the Montgomery County Council March 19 at 3 p.m. Foulger said he was sitting alongside members of the community and the press waiting to hear the results of the report, which had not yet been made available to his company.

Foulger said his company has not yet received KCE’s full report and, therefore, hasn’t yet evaluated it.

Dise said the three-volume report is being converted to a digital format, which will be shared with the county and its contractors in the next couple of weeks.

Foulger also said he is “shocked” and “disappointed” by the inconsistencies between the county’s description of the KCE report and what the report actually says.

“The clear statement that the county made at that hearing, and since then, is ‘We had no idea that these pour strips did not have post-tensioning,’” said Judah Lifschitz of Shapiro Lifschitz & Schram, a law firm that represents Foulger-Pratt. “[But] the original design of the project did not call for post-tensioning in the pour strips.”

Additionally, a copy of an inspection report from Jan. 12, 2011, obtained by The Gazette, shows that The Robert B Balter Company signed off on a visual inspection stating that “prior to concrete placement reinforcing steel was inspected and found to be installed as per specifications.”

A copy of another Balter inspection report from April 19, 2011, obtained by The Gazette, also stated that “prior to concrete placement reinforcing steel was inspected and found to be installed as per specifications” in the concrete deck pours at the 330 level.

Lori Balter of The Robert B. Balter company did not return requests for comment on Thursday.

“This is a point of contention between Foulger-Pratt and the county,” Dise said, noting that post-tensioning was shown in some areas of the drawings and specifications, but not shown everywhere. “We already have a paper trail notifying our determination. They already said they disagree.”

The structural engineer hired by the county, Parsons Brinckerhoff, carefully reviewed every shop drawing detailing where rebar and post-tensioning should be located in the structure, Foulger said Thursday while pointing to one such drawing at his company’s offices in Rockville.

According to the rendering, Parsons Brinckerhoff marked in red where something needed to be changed, he said, noting that those drawings show that no post-tensioning is intended to be placed in the disputed concrete slabs.

Parsons Brinckerhoff did not respond to calls for comment on Thursday.

Furthermore, KCE’s report says the designs for the project did not include post-tensioning requirements in the pour strips in level 330. The report also says the cracking was due, at least in part, to the design of the structure.

Lifschitz said pour strips do not typically have post-tensioning in them. The pour strips at the transit center were a bit wider than usual, he said, but “far be it for us to say you should’ve done it this way or that way.”

Lifschitz said the county’s presentation last week came on the heels of a year in which the county has conducted itself in a manner that “flies in the face of basic notions of American fairness.” Lifschitz and Foulger said they were “outraged” by what they heard at the presentation.

“For the county to not talk to us and have a professional dialogue for a year, for the county to post this report that took $2 million and nine months and timed perfectly at 3 [p.m.] when they’re getting up and making a presentation in front of the county council, for the county to be out there talking to the press for 10 days, and for us not to have the guts of the report so that we can analyze it ... flies in the face of the most basic notions of fairness,” he said.

Dise said Montgomery County had a trailer at the transit center with five full-time employees, including inspectors from the Department of Permitting Services, on site every day to oversee general operations. Those county employees were there to ensure that the contractors that are supposed to be on site are present and doing their work, Dise said.

He said representatives from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority also were on site.

“We had an awful lot of people looking over our shoulders on virtually everything that was done on this project,” Foulger said.

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said that if there were representatives on site, they were observers, not inspectors.

Stessel also said that while WMATA signed off on wording for the features of the facility, such as how many bus bays there would be, or the capacity, the agency had “no role in reviewing or approving the design.”

Foulger said the project has been “fraught with mismanagement” from the beginning. He said his company has been given 448 days of time extensions in the project and another 15 claims that total more than 500 days of additional time delays, caused by the “lack of coordination” of the drawings provided by Parsons Brinckerhoff.

“It is the county’s responsibility to make sure that their consultants perform and they have not done that in this case. And that has cost the taxpayer time and money as it relates to getting this project up and done,” Foulger said.

“It was their job to oversee and proactively manage the design of this project to make sure that when we as a contractor got the drawings, that they were complete, that they were coordinated and they were buildable,” he added. “That didn’t happen here, and that’s why we’ve had 900 days of delays. That’s an absurd number.”

Foulger said he also was disappointed with Leggett’s statement March 19 following the report’s release. The statement explains that the facility contained “significant and serious design and construction defects.”

“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.

Foulger-Pratt has no other projects with the county or bids put in for future projects with the county now, Foulger said, noting that his company is concerned about litigation.

“We’ve been trying to work cooperatively with the county to get this resolved,” Foulger said. “We are accountable for our actions and behaviors and we hold other people accountable, as well. That’s what we’ve done for 50 years.”

Read more about the Silver Spring Transit Center at www.gazette.net/transit.

krose@gazette.net