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Metro wants Silver Spring Transit Center safe before takeover

WASHINGTON — Metro will take on the Silver Spring Transit Center, but only after repairs ensure that the $120 million project, years overdue, is safe.

Charlie Scott, senior government relations officer with Metro, told the Montgomery County Council in a hearing on Thursday, “Metro will not accept the SSTC with conditions that threaten both the safety of the general public and the efficiency of Metro’s transit operations.”

Short was referring to the analysis by former Lockeed Martin Executive Norman Augustine that concluded without needed repairs, visitors to the center could be at risk from falling concrete.

When asked about Metro’s decision to wait until repairs are complete, Metro General Manager Richard Sarles told reporters “It will be opened, and it will be safe.”

“Obviously we don’t want concrete falling on our customers and the county doesn’t either.”

The news that Metro would insist all repairs be completed before it would begin operating the $120 million bus and transit center in the heart of Silver Spring raised questions among council members about when the transit center would actually open.

Councilmember Nancy Floreen pressed for an answer to the question.

“You know, at the end of the day, people want to know, so, when are we going to be able to get in there?”

Tim Firestine, chief administrative officer for Montgomery County, told the council, “Our goal, still, is to complete the center and turn it over to Metro by the end of the year.”

But Floreen pressed further, asking Short, the Metro representative at Thursday’s hearing, “So, it could be operational, by say, February?”

Short said it would depend on the course of the repair work but added, “We’ll do everything we can to expedite” the opening of the transit center.

Firestine, the county’s CAO, was asked about how the repair work would be carried out. He told the council contractors from Parsons Brinckerhoff would meet with county officials on Monday.

Council member Roger Berliner, who leads a county committee on infrastructure, joked, “What time is your meeting? Maybe we’ll all just sort of hang out.”

After the council hearing, David Dise, general services director for Montgomery County, was pressed yet again on when the project and all the needed repairs would be completed.

“We won’t know the full details until we have finalized the current design and worked with the general contractor on that.”

Dise has repeatedly told the county council that taxpayers would not be on the hook for the cost of remediation and repairs at the Silver Spring Transit Center, but when asked directly if those costs wouldn’t have to be made up front with taxpayer dollars, he conceded.

“That may be required, yes.” But he then insisted that it’s the county’s position that taxpayers should not have to cover those repair costs. However, Dise said he fully expects it will take lawsuits to recover the cost of repairs.

Of the contractors who could be held responsible by the county, he said “I would expect that they’re all working through counsel that are making sure they keep their hands in their pockets.”

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