The embattled Silver Spring Transit Center, which must undergo structural repairs before it is safe to open, has now become a campaign issue in the Montgomery County race for county executive.
Doug Duncan, a Democratic candidate for county executive, sent a letter Thursday to County Executive Isiah Leggett asking to him to fire the county’s general services director in charge of the project. Duncan says someone must be held accountable for the “unmitigated disaster” of the Silver Spring Transit Center — a future hub for Metrorail, Metrobus, MARC trains and the proposed Purple Line, in downtown Silver Spring at Colesville Road and Wayne Avenue.
The $112 million transportation hub is $80 million over budget and two years behind schedule, according to The Washington Post.
A recent memo from Montgomery County officials said work is needed to strengthen beams, girders, pillars and cracked concrete for the center. The repairs could be made by the end of this year, though an opening wouldn't be likely until 2015, News4Washington reports.
After several weeks of meetings among county leaders, Metro officials and contractors, the project designer and engineer has agreed to a plan for the strengthening interior beams and girders, the Post says. While county officials now say they will turn the completed facility over to Metro by the end of the year, the transit agency’s inspection of repairs and prep work to open the center will likely push the opening into next year.
The Silver Spring Transit Center is four years late in opening, $30 million over budget, and too unsafe to open, Duncan charged in his letter, which demands that Leggett relieve General Services Director David Dise of his duties immediately.
“Last week, the Inspector General released a report that confirmed what every other review of the Silver Spring Transit Center has found – the county’s management of this project has been an unmitigated disaster,” said Duncan in the letter. “I am writing to urge you to hold the manager of this project accountable and relieve General Services Director David Dise of his duties, effective immediately. The taxpayers of Montgomery County – and the commuters of Silver Spring – deserve nothing less.”
Leggett, a Democrat running for his third term who will face Duncan in the June 24 primary, said in his response that Duncan was playing politics with a safety issue. He also praised Dise for overseeing numerous successful projects for the county.
“If I thought Mr. Dise was responsible for the flaws and resulting delays in the Silver Spring Transit Center, he would be gone already,” Leggett wrote. … “He recommended further inspections and pushed to address the challenges posed by the faulty contractors’ work and to move forward on the fixes needed. Under his leadership, the Department of General Services has successfully completed 33 projects under the last eight years, with another 11 in the pipeline to be finished in the next year — despite the fiscal challenges of the Great Recession.”
Leggett said repair work will begin next week, and contractors will bear the cost.
“The county will deliver a facility to Metro that is safe and will meet its projected 50-year life,” Leggett said. “You can play politics on this if you want. I am not going to let politics get in the way of safety, getting this Transit Center open for commuters or protecting the interests of County taxpayers, period.”
You can read Duncan’s letter and Leggett’s response on the Montgomery Community Media website.