Montgomery council approves $7.5M in additional funds for Silver Spring Transit Center -- Gazette.Net


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The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved on Tuesday another $7.5 million to be spent on the Silver Spring Transit Center.

This follows the recommendation by the county executive to put the money in an amendment to the six-year Capital Improvement Program that will go toward more stormwater management measures not in the original scope of work of the project, utility relocation costs, site improvements, costs to continue operation of the bus interim operations site used by Ride On and Metrobus, county staff and consultant costs and legal costs, according to an email from Esther Bowring, public information officer for Montgomery County.

The county said most of the $7.5 million has been earmarked for existing bills. About $2.2 million of that appropriation accounts for delays associated with 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.

Ernie Lunsford of the county’s Department of General Services said there have been a large number of change orders. He also said the bulk of the money is associated with construction work that has already been accomplished, allowing the contractors to be paid.

The money, the county said, has nothing to do with the actual remediation of the facility and will not lead to the center opening faster.

While Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring was initially opposed to putting more county taxpayer money into the project on Tuesday morning, Ervin and other council members said they want to see the facility open as soon as possible.

“I don’t see how voting against this special appropriation furthers any purpose other than perhaps a venting gesture,” said Councilman George Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park. “It’s clear that there will need to be cash flow expended to move forward to open this facility.”

Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At Large) of Takoma Park said supporting this project is “necessary,” but said the conversation on how the county does business moving forward still needs to be explored.

“We need this center. And the community is not well-served by leaving this in a perpetual state of limbo,” Elrich said. “...We really do have to rethink whether we made a mistake in our approach to letting out all of the supervision of projects to a private entity.”

The county hired Washington, D.C.-based KCE Structural Engineers to prepare a report detailing the problems and potential solutions at the center. The report, delivered to the county on March 18 and presented to the full council on March 19, revealed the Silver Spring Transit Center contains “serious design and construction defects” that compromise the center’s structural integrity, longevity and safety.

Council President Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring and the chair of the council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee — Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda — requested Monday that the county staff brief the council regularly on the center moving forward. The briefings will focus on getting “the county’s safe and reliable Transit Center open to the public as quickly as possible” and will not address financial responsibility or litigation, the letter read. The first briefing is scheduled for April 30.

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

krose@gazette.net