Foulger-Pratt: county fixes for Silver Spring transit center ‘ill-advised, ill-conceived’ -- Gazette.Net


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Plans to fix the cracking Silver Spring Transit Center with a specialty concrete won’t work and will push the Metro hub’s opening past summer 2014, according to a letter released Tuesday from the project’s general contractor, Foulger-Pratt.

A working group tasked with finding a way to get the troubled $120 million transit hub open for business has decided Montgomery County will use the latex-modified concrete as the overlay material to make the repairs, according to a letter Thursday from David Dise, director of general services, to County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and Council President Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring.

But in a letter sent from Foulger-Pratt Managing Principal Bryant Foulger to Dise Tuesday, the firm said it advised “against installation of the LMC overlay being insisted upon by the county’s design professional, Parsons Brinckerhoff.”

Latex-modified concrete is a durable, fast-curing system that will be used to address areas where the concrete thicknesses vary too much, Dise said. The cracks will be repaired and the modified concrete will be used as a uniform overlay.

Foulger said in his letter the LMC fails to address the design issue that caused the concrete cracking and the long-term maintenance of the cracking slabs.

“Our recommendations with regard to the overlay have been ignored in favor of an approach that we believe to be highly inadvisable — an approach insisted upon by the county’s design engineer over our strenuous objections,” Foulger wrote in a release to The Gazette. “The designer’s approach is technically ill-advised and ill-conceived.”

Dise told the Montgomery County Council at a briefing Tuesday afternoon that he still believes the latex-modified concrete will do the job.

“We certainly, along with experts, believe it does or we wouldn’t recommend it,” he told the council. “We all want the facility complete and open, and we want it to be done correctly. This is the best solution that provides a combination of durability and adequate coverage of infill of thin areas.”

While Dise has said the actual work of installing the latex-modified concrete would take six weeks, he said design approvals and permits would add to the timeframe.

There’s a lot of site work to be done before the concrete overlay can start, he said.

Foulger alleges the center is looking at a much longer completion schedule than suggested by the county. He said before overlay work can begin other construction work such as demolition of handicap ramps, crack repair, waterproofing at handicap ramps and installation of drain extension frames for curb inlet drains must occur.

Foulger said the concrete product, because of temperature restrictions on the materials, would likely not be able to be installed from November through April.

Dise told the council the concrete needed to be poured when temperatures are 40 degrees or higher.

“Weather is in fact the biggest challenge in this,” Dise told the council.

Dise said it is possible to do part of the project prior to November and close off some of the work to the weather to get the rest done.

“We are highly disappointed that it has taken 18 weeks and all we have is a decision from the county to move forward with an ill-advised approach that is going to take more time than necessary and going to cost he county even more money. As we have said in the past, we want to get the Transit Center open for the citizens of Montgomery County, but we are again frustrated that it has taken so long to get to this point and that the decisions being made will not accomplish this goal in an effective, timely and cost efficient way,” Foulger wrote in a statement to The Gazette.

Dise said the modified concrete is more expensive than conventional concrete because it has twice its strength, plus a latex component.

So far there is no cost estimate for the remediation.

Several council members expressed concerns about who would pay for the additional work.

Dise said Leggett would prefer to get the project fixed first, then figure out who pays for what.

“Our drive now is to obtain substantial completion,” Dise said.

Also still undetermined is how much the structure will cost to maintain and operate — the biggest hurdle in getting the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to accept the project.

KCE, the county’s consultant for the repair job, is continuing its assessment of potential extraordinary maintenance costs of the remediated facility, according to Dise’s letter.

This will be compared with the operating and maintenance cost anticipated by WMATA in its original 2004 estimate. According to a September 2004 estimate, WMATA expected to pay $2.2 million to perform annual maintenance at the transit center. WMATA also planned a $1 million allowance for rehabilitation of the center at 15-year intervals.

WMATA is interested in identifying what, if any, extra costs may be anticipated beyond that original estimate, according to Dise’s letter.

Charlie Scott, representing WMATA at the Tuesday meeting, said the authority’s board is waiting to review an entire remediation plan rather than weighing in throughout the process.

“We are not taking every update and potential fix and plan to the board,” he said. “Ultimately we want to take a final remediation to board of directors and an agreement with the county on how we would be able to recommend acceptance.”

The $120 million facility, at the corner of Colesville Road and Wayne Avenue in downtown Silver Spring, 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 two years.

Concrete subcontractor Facchina Construction of La Plata, hired by Foulger-Pratt to work on the project, may end up doing the remediation work, Dise said. Foulger-Pratt will be responsible for hiring the subcontractor for the concrete overlay job and could choose to use Facchina or another contractor, he said.

“Facchina is a good contractor. They do concrete structures across the county. There were mistakes made here, but that does not mean they make mistakes everywhere,” Dise said. “I would have no problem if they went with Facchina on this project.”

Staff Writer Ryan Marshall contributed to this report.

kbrick@gazette.net