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Cracks May Be Death Knell for $112M Hub

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

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The opening of Maryland’s new budget-busting, repeatedly delayed, problem-plagued $112 million mass-transit hub has been iced indefinitely after cracks were discovered in the unfinished structure.

Some officials say the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) project may have to be torn down and restarted—a prospect that one local official called “apocalyptic.”

 Construction of the $112 million Silver Spring Transit Center has been put on hold after extensive cracking was found in the structure.

 Montgomery County Government

Construction of the $112 million Silver Spring Transit Center has been put on hold after extensive cracking was found in the structure.

Construction on the structure, in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Silver Spring, MD, was halted abruptly over the winter after Montgomery County’s general services director reported “major flaws” in the concrete pour.

About 63 percent of the concrete on two floors is either too thick or too thin, and steel supports in several areas have no protection from weather erosion, according to a new analysis by engineering consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff, which designed the structure and has been reviewing the work.

Spalling, Flaking and Cracking

The concrete irregularities were not the project’s first problem, and would not be its last. In August 2011, officials noticed spalling and flaking concrete on the structure.

Then, in April 2012, the project was put on hold indefinitely when cracks were discovered in what are reportedly “large sections” of concrete on the structure’s second and third levels. That area is slated for bus bays, taxis, and a “kiss and ride” drop-off.

Skin Deep or Structural?

The county and general contractor Foulger-Pratt, of Rockville, MD, have been in discussions about how to fix the problem.

The family-owned contractor, established in 1963, says the cracks do not affect the structure’s integrity and contends that the project’s previously planned spray-on sealant will fix the problem, according to news reports.

“We don’t think there is a structural issue at all,” principal Bryant F. Foulger, told The Washington Post months ago.

The concrete subcontractor was Facchina Construction Co., of LaPlata, MD, a heavy/highway civil contractor that has not commented on the controversy.

The county, meanwhile, has floated the possibility of more drastic measures, including possibly tearing the structure down.

And Metro, the transit agency, is demanding “a proper assessment of the structure’s design and construction” before determining a solution, said spokeswoman Cathy Asato.

“We have informed [the county] that we would not accept the facility as presently constructed,” Asato told one newspaper.

Studies, Studies, Studies

At least three analyses of the project have been completed. Each side has called in consultants, and a third-party engineer has also been studying the situation, The Washington Examiner reports.

Both sides, of course, continue to debate who will foot the rapidly mounting bills.

County Department of General Services Director David Dise says that another study must be completed before he can brief county officials.

Construction on the structure, then budgeted at $75 million, began in September 2008, and completion was initially set for 2009. The opening was pushed back to the summer of 2011, then to November, then to January, and then to this summer.


Tagged categories: Concrete; Concrete defects; Construction; Flaking; Rail; Transportation

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