After delays and budget overruns, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is backing out of a deal with the county to operate the beleaguered Silver Spring Transit Center.
In a letter sent to Department of General Services Director David Dise on April 12, the transit authority cited “deficiencies of design and construction of the facility ... of the magnitude and severity, that even if repaired...would unnecessarily place an inordinate maintenance burden onto WMATA.”
The letter was first reported by The Washington Post.
WMATA, which operates Metro and related transit services, has been a partner with the county in the process to build the $112 million transit hub, said county spokesman Patrick Lacefield.
“Our view is that this is not serious,” Lacefield said of the letter. “We will be turning a facility over to them that meets the requirements...and does not cost Montgomery County taxpayers any more money.”
The requirements, laid out in a memorandum of understanding between the county and the authority, were for the county to build a transit hub with a 50-year lifespan. After cracks appeared in the structure and the thickness of the concrete was called into question, the county and the contractor are hammering out plans for the repair of the structure, and it is unclear when the center will actually open.
Should such negotiations fail, Lacefield said, “There are other options, but we’re not talking about those yet.”
The authority will run Metrobus service out of the facility when it opens, the letter said.
Metro declined to comment further on the letter.
Reports of the letter Friday were a surprise to the county council, which in turn sent a letter of its own to County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), chastising him for not telling them of Metro’s position, calling it a “significant development which warranted prompt notification of the council.”
The letter from the council also reminded Leggett of a request for weekly written briefings on the state of the transit center.
Lacefield said that the letter from the authority is the opening gambit in a negotiation with the authority over the operation of the center.