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Montgomery County Council approves more funds for Silver Spring Transit Center

Silver Spring Transit Center, Silver Spring, MD, Tues, Jan 10, 2012
Silver Spring Transit Center, Silver Spring, MD, Tues, Jan 10, 2012

The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday approved $7.5 million more in funding for the Silver Spring Transit Center, though those funds won't go toward fixing the defective structure.

County Executive Ike Leggett requested the funds for stormwater management, utility relocation, site improvements, and costs to continue operating buses used by Ride On and Metrobus at interim sites. About $2.2 million of the appropriation goes specifically toward costs the county has racked up because of delays in opening the transit center.

The project, which has been postponed for more than two years because of dangerous defects, is stalled until plans to fix it are put in place. A study commissioned by the county showed the $124 million center would be unsafe without major repairs.

Ernie Lunsford, division chief of Building Design and Construction in the county's Department of General Services, said the requested $7.5 million is associated with construction work that has already been done and that there are a number of change orders to be completed.

None of the money will go toward fixing the transit center.

Councilman Roger Berliner, D-Bethesda, said the council must do its part to ensure there are no more delays to the project, and giving the money would be a step in that direction.

Councilwoman Valerie Ervin, D-Silver Spring, initially opposed the appropriation, questioning why the county would pump more money into a project where problems had not been fixed.

Berliner said he expects the council will get a full briefing on how to fix the center by the end of April, including the potential cost. County spokesman Patrick Lacefield said Tuesday that Foulger-Pratt has agreed to work with the county to start developing designs to fix the project.

Other council members pointed out it might be years before it is determined who is at fault for the problems and how the project could have been handled better.

"If all those things are held hostage, our residents might have to wait years for the center to open," said Councilman Marc Elrich, D-at large, adding, "I do think we need a full autopsy on this project as soon as possible."

Council members have alluded to potential litigation against contractor Foulger-Pratt to pay for remediation costs, though there has been no formal announcement.