Officials in Montgomery County said, today, that Metro eventually has to take possession of the long-delayed transit center in Silver Spring. Metro disagrees.
The grass is growing, and the trees have been planted on the top story of a 120 million dollar transit center that, according to an outside engineering firm, is structurally deficient in both design and construction. Skeleton crews are on the work site while Montgomery County officials draw up plans to reinforce the structure.
Last month, Metro, which owns the land underneath (and was supposed to take possession of the finished transit center), sent a letter saying the “magnitude and severity” of the deficiencies are such that the transit system will not “accept operate and maintain” the building in downtown Silver Spring.
Not so fast, say officials in Montgomery County, who maintain they have a 2008 memorandum of understanding with WMATA, Metro’s parent agency. Tim Firestine, the Chief Administrative Officer for Montgomery Government told the County Council at a briefing on the project: “That MOU is operative, and can’t simply be superseded by a letter from WA MATA.”
County councilmember Phil Andrews (D) wanted to know, how strong is the contract language in that ‘memorandum of understanding’ -- on a scale of one-to-ten, with ‘ten’ being unquestionably binding.
“How about an eleven,” replied county attorney Marc Hansen. “It’s binding.”
County officials also said that all parties involved in design, construction, and inspection of the three story building have been “collaborative” in trying to come up with a remediation plan, except Metro, which has declined to participate. That prompted Councilmember Nancy Floreen (D) to ask (at the public briefing)
“Is there anybody here from Metro? In the room? Anybody?” No one answered.
In a late afternoon statement, Metro re-iterated its decision to refuse to accept the building because, “it’s not designed or constructed to our standards.”
With remediation, however, Metro says it will operate buses in the building.
County officials hope to know in about a month how long the remediation effort will take. Only then will they announce a date when the Silver Spring Transit Center will open to the public.