An engineering analysis of the nearly-complete Silver Spring Transit Center has concluded the huge project was incorrectly designed, insufficiently built and was not properly inspected during construction.
Silver Spring is one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in Montgomery County, especially during the work week. Both Metrorail and MARC trains stop here. And dozens of Ride On and Metro bus routes converge in downtown Silver Spring.
For the last four years, those buses have been diverted to streets away from the Metro station, so that a huge transit center could be built alongside the rail stations.
$112 million later, the transit center is 90 percent complete. But according to a new engineering report commissioned by the county government, the project suffers from significant design and construction problems, and cannot be opened.
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable – none of our council members, [and] I know the county executive wouldn’t feel comfortable -- putting people in a building that was unsafe at this point,” declared Councilmember Craig Rice (D – upper Montgomery County).
Among the problems listed in the engineering analysis of the project: huge concrete slabs were poured “without reinforcing steel.” The outside engineers conclude some of the concrete has “unacceptable” strength.
The engineers also concluded that cracks in some of the concrete leave the “structure vulnerable to water … intrusion.” The building is supposed to have a 50-year service life. The outside engineers conclude that corrosion could start occurring within 12-and-a-half years.
Rockville-based Foulger-Pratt is the general contractor on the project. But the engineering report also blames the firm that designed the transit center, and the company that was hired to inspect the building during construction.
“The good news is we can fix the problems,” said Councilman Hans Reimer (D - At-large) during an interview. “And we’ll just have to keep plowing ahead and get it done just as fast as we can.”
The question now is: who will spend the millions necessary to reinforce the building so it can be opened for use? One county official told us: ‘Lawyers are talking to lawyers.”
Foulger-Pratt, the construction company, did not return phone calls seeking reaction to the engineering report. Nor did representatives for the design company (Parsons Brinkerhoff), nor the inspection firm (the Robert Balter Company).
Apparently, for the indefinite future, the transit center in Silver Spring will remain unused.