The opening date of the Silver Spring Transit Center so far has been a crapshoot. Now, a transportation advocacy group is also making it a contest.
Action Committee for Transit is holding a tongue-in-cheek contest to attract members and spark discussion about when the transportation hub — the subject of a fight about its construction — will open its doors to commuters.
On Thursday morning, group members handed out contest entry forms to passersby to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the 2008 groundbreaking of the Silver Spring Transit Center.
The form reads: “When will the Silver Spring Center open? Guess the date and win a free dinner for two at 8407 Kitchen Bar.”
But the committee makes no promise about when the prize will be awarded — that depends when the center opens.
“Nobody knows when that day is, so we thought to have a contest. ... We cannot award the prize until the transit center is open,” said Tina Slater, president of the Action Committee for Transit. “We were very frustrated that the transit center is taking so long since the 2008 groundbreaking, which was going to take only two years — except now it is five years and we still don’t know when it is going to open.”
The long-delayed center groundbreaking was in 2008. The $112 million project, on the corner of Colesville Road and Wayne Avenue, was expected to open in 2011. When open, the transit center will be a three-level transit hub that connects MARC commuter trains, Metro, taxis, and Ride On and intercity buses.
A March 2013 report by KCE Structural Engineers showed the project had a series of cracks in the middle and upper levels of the structure. The county and its contractor have had public disagreements over how to fix the center.
Slater did not know how many entries were submitted so far.
“I’ve heard about 20 people saying ‘never,’” she said. “I did hear somebody say ‘next century.’ A few people said ‘not in my lifetime.’
“But my favorite was this man who came up and said, ‘I think they should open next year on April Fool’s Day.’”
James Freeman, who works in front of the transit center project selling newspapers to commuters rushing to get to work, has followed the project’s construction.
“I was here when they had a place for the buses to come in. I was here when they tore down. I was here when they were building this,” he said. “So your guess is good as mine.”
Slater and her group of volunteers handed out entry forms from 6:30 a.m. until about 10:30 a.m. and encouraged each person to make a guess.
One passerby quickly responded, before running to catch the Metro, “Never. It is what feels like, anyway.”