Montgomery council members want more information on transit center -- Gazette.Net


Montgomery County Council members would like more information about the ongoing repairs to the Silver Spring Transit Center, as the long-delayed project approaches completion.

The council would like access to the same information that the county’s Department of General Services has on the project at the corner of Colesville Road and Wayne Avenue in downtown Silver Spring so it can better answer questions from constituents, Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring told General Services Director David Dise at the council’s meeting Tuesday.

For people in Silver Spring and Takoma Park, the transit center is the number one issue, and one she constantly hears about, Ervin said.

Dise said he realizes there’s “no small amount of frustration” about the center among residents.

The project has led to more than 400 proposed change orders to the contract, including approved change orders worth $10.8 million, according to the county.

Through September, expenditures on the project had totalled nearly $108.9 million, Dise said in an email Tuesday. Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda asked that the council be briefed on any increased obligations the county will be assuming as a result of the delays in the project, and Dise said it would be.

Councilman Phil Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg asked that the council be allowed to see any changes to a memorandum of understanding between the county and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the county’s partner in the project that will do an inspection of the transit center once it’s completed.

It will be crucial that the council be notified about what the county is being asked to sign off on, Andrews said.

The memo was still being worked out by lawyers from both sides, said Charles Scott, a government relations official from transit authority.

Andrews went on to call the project the “biggest construction debacle in the county’s history.”

Repair work on the facility originally slated to open in 2011 will continue through the winter while workers wait for temperatures to warm up so they can apply the final piece of construction, a concrete overlay designed to fix varying concrete thickness and cracking in the structure, Dise said Tuesday.

Dise said the county continues to believe that all extra work is the result of mistakes by the companies working on the projects and will seek reimbursement from them.

“They will make us whole for that,” he said.

Experts believe as many as 250 of the beams supporting the facility’s concrete slabs need to be strengthened, and design work for that repair is underway and should be done in the next week to 10 days, he told the council.

The beam work entails either putting up more beams or strengthening the structure above them, he said.

Waterproofing tests using dyed water to identify the source of any leaks will also be done later this month or in early December, he said.

But the type of latex-modified concrete used for the overlay can’t be poured until temperatures are consistently above 40 degrees, meaning that the final piece of the construction can’t be completed until the spring.

The overlay will be applied over a six-week period once the weather warms up.

Andrews asked what the county planned to do differently in the future to avoid similar problems with other projects.

The vast majority of projects the county does are extremely routine, such as libraries, rec centers and fire stations, Dise said.

But for unique projects such as the transit center, the county will consult experts with experience on similar projects earlier in the process than happened with the Silver Spring facility, he said.

Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At Large) of Takoma Park passed on a request from a constituent that the center be temporarily opened up for supervised tours so residents can see the work being done for themselves.

Dise said he had gotten the same request and has asked the county attorney to look into it, but predicted that conducting such tours in what is still a construction site could raise “serious liability and legal issues.”