Leggett: WMATA offering conflicting views on transit center -- Gazette.Net


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County Executive Isiah Leggett faulted the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for conflicting messages over what it plans to do with the troubled Silver Spring Transit Center.

Montgomery County was to build the center, which WMATA would operate and maintain. An April 12 letter said the transit agency would not accept the center, which has been beset by concrete problems.

“No one can just unilaterally decide that they don’t want to follow the agreement,” Leggett (D) said.

Three days after the April 12 letter, another WMATA official seemed to contradict the previous message, Leggett said.

“As we discussed, please rest assured that this is not an attempt to take advantage of the unfortunate circumstances the County is facing with the construction of the SSTC,” wrote Charlie Scott, senior government relations officer for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

“We had assumed all along that Metro would, one day, operate and maintain the facility. I am sure that as we restructure the underlying agreements, there will be recognition that Metro’s forecasted operating and maintenance costs need to be part of the equation as we determine future operations of the transit center,” Scott wrote.

Leggett said the April 12 letter was a way for WMATA to “position themselves for negotiations.”

WMATA spokesman Dan Stessel said Thursday the agency stands by the April 12 letter.

“That isn’t to say that we’re walking away,” Stessel said. “We will work with the county to find a mutually agreeable solution under which Metro will use the facility.”

WMATA, which operates Metro and related transit services, worked with the county on the $120 million transit hub. The agency would own, operate and maintain the center assuming the county produces a facility with a life expectancy of 50 years, according to their agreement. Leggett said the remediation plan designed by KCE Structural Engineers ensures the facility will last for 50 years.

The transit center was slated to open in 2011, but a series of cracks found in the structure and disparities in the thickness of the concrete have delayed the project’s opening by nearly two years so far, and it’s unclear when the center will be open for business.

Leggett administration officials appeared Wednesday before the Montgomery County Council to provide an update on the debacle. Leggett was not present.

Stessel said there has been an ongoing conversation with the county about the project.

“We’ve been at the table for most meetings, and we continue to be available to the county and communicate with them frequently,” Stessel said.

krose@gazette.net