Opening delayed indefinitely to fix construction defects

The Silver Spring Transit Center has significant design and construction defects that could cause buses to fall through thin concrete floors and potentially kill both riders and pedestrians underneath, according to a report issued by Montgomery County on Tuesday.

The problems include excessive cracking, missing post-tensioning cables, inadequate reinforcing steel, and concrete of insufficient strength and thickness.

Some of the main cracking was on a level where buses are supposed to stop and pick up passengers, and the buses could fall through the cement structure, according to Montgomery County Director of General Services David Dise.

The $112 million center, originally scheduled to open in 2011, is supposed to offer connections among MARC, Metrorail and Purple Line trains -- as well as house Metrobus and Ride On bays and taxi stands.

County officials said the center's opening would be delayed indefinitely while fixes are made, after at least three delays over the last two and a half years. The county hired KCE Engineering Services to examine the center last year after finding problems with the thickness of the concrete.

Metro officials did not comment on the report.

The center does not have to be torn down, KCE found, and the county will work with the project's developer, Foulger-Pratt, on structural remediations, Dise said.

County Council members said they were looking into legal action against Foulger-Pratt and any of the other entities involved in the construction of the center.

Delays in the project have cost the county about $2.2 million, which county officials said they expect Foulger-Pratt to pay.

Bryant Foulger, a principal at Foulger-Pratt, refused to comment on the contents of the report, saying he and his associates had not had a chance to review it. He criticized the county for not including the company more, saying his company tried for a year to get more information about the content of the report and was shut down each time.

"We're here today to listen and to hear what was said just like the rest of the county," Foulger said.

County Executive Ike Leggett said the county will move forward "aggressively" to make sure the center is fixed properly, and he called the center "a very serious matter, which involves the safety of potential users that simply cannot be ignored."

Councilman Hans Riemer, D-at large, said the county is not responsible for the mistakes made the by the developer and the contractor and that the county isn't looking to foot the bill.

"It can be fixed," he said. "But we didn't break it."