Report finds faults with management of Transit Center construction -- Gazette.Net


This story was updated at 5:30 p.m. May 20, 2014.

Problems with the design and construction of the Silver Spring Transit Center project were identified as early as 2010, but the people involved in the project did not act effectively to solve the problem, according to a new report from Montgomery County’s Office of the Inspector General.

The report, released Tuesday finds that 14 of the 22 construction control methods analyzing the design, implementation and effectiveness of the project were either weak or ineffective, and suggests a range of suggestions that the county’s Department of General Services should take on future projects to avoid similar problems.

The significant structural issues found in the long-delayed project in downtown Silver Spring were the result of construction deficiencies, design problems and a “failure to effectively address these issues when they were first identified,” according to the report.

The facility at Colesville Road and Wayne Avenue has been plagued by problems since construction began in 2009.

It has been a consistent theme in the campaign for county executive, which pits current executive Isiah Leggett against former executive Douglas M. Duncan and Councilman Philip M. Andrews in the Democratic primary, with Duncan consistently criticizing Leggett and the County Council’s oversight of the project.

Republican executive candidate James Shalleck, a former prosecutor, has called for a federal grand jury investigation into the project to find what went wrong.

“Although concerns about concrete thickness, inadequate concrete cover, and related structural deficiency and durability were continually raised in monthly project oversight meetings, potential repairs and remediation had not been resolved by the end of the major construction activities in 2012,” the inspector general’s report said.

The report said that the Department of General Services had the main responsibility to serve as the construction manager on the project — including auditing test reports, checking payment requests and change order requests and interacting with the other agencies involved in the project, including the Federal Transit Administration, Maryland Transit Administration and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

But the number of groups involved with the process created a “troubling lack of clarity” that allowed mistakes to pass undetected, the report said.

The transit center has been the subject of several reports, including one conducted by KCE Structural Engineers and another submitted to the county in April by former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine.

Augustine’s report found that the problems could cause concrete to fall onto pedestrians if they’re not repaired before the center opens.

In a statement Tuesday, county spokesman Patrick Lacefield said the report was “consistent in placing the responsibility for flaws in design, construction, and inspection with the private parties involved with the project.”

Leggett has maintained that the companies that the county believes caused the problems with the project will be held responsible for the extra costs, rather than county taxpayers.

Many of the controls mentioned in the report are the responsibility of the companies working on the transit center, the statement said.

A letter from Timothy L. Firestine, the county’s chief administrative officer, in response to the inspector general’s report, placed much of the blame for the problems on the contractors who designed and worked on the facility, but said General Services would make changes to its process, including hiring an independent construction manager to oversee complicated projects in the future.

“We agree that were the Transit Center’s construction [to] begin today, DGS would use a construction management firm,” Firestine wrote. “DGS has currently prepared a solicitation to select construction management firms to be used on future projects.”

General Services Director David Dise said the county will soon be soliciting several firms to serve as construction managers for ongoing projects.

The new library being built in downtown Silver Spring has used a manager, and the construction of a library and rec center in Wheaton will also use one, he said.

A construction manager serves as an extra set of eyes on a project, validating schedules, keeping project timelines on track, doing cost control and other functions, he said.