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Silver Line Phase 2 Faces Rail Tie Flaws

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

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According to recent findings, phase two of Washington Metro’s $5.8 billion Silver Line extension, in Washington, D.C., is facing another set of problems: Alleged faulty concrete railroad ties could cause further delays on a project that is already 13 months behind schedule, as a plan for replacement or a fix has yet to be determined.

Lead contractor Capital Rail Constructors, a joint venture composed of Clark Construction and Kiewit Infrastructure, discovered in September that roughly 400 railroad ties are up to half an inch higher in the center than on the sides.

Silver Line Saga

Previously, the Silver Line project was rocked by reports that employees of subcontractor Universal Concrete Products, of Stowe, Pennsylvania, falsified concrete test reports, certifying panels that were not made to specification. Andrew Nolan, who served as QC manager at the firm and allegedly oversaw the cooking of the books, pleaded guilty in August to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and agreed to cooperate with investigators.

The QC team at UCP allegedly changed values on reports indicating the air and water content of the concrete mixtures, and sourced aggregate from a different quarry than it had originally proposed, potentially leaving the door open to the alkali-silica reaction, in which aggregate reacts with cement paste, often creating cracking and spalling.

Ryan Stavely, CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

According to recent findings, phase two of Washington Metro’s $5.8 billion Silver Line extension, in Washington, D.C., is facing its own set of problems: Alleged faulty concrete railroad ties could cause further delays on a project that is already 13 months behind schedule, as a plan for replacement or a fix has yet to be determined.

The whistleblower lawsuit, filed in 2016 by former UCP quality-control employee Nathan Davidheiser, was joined in 2018 by the federal government and commonwealth of Virginia. In addition to the allegations leveled against Nolan, the suit states that company executives ignored internal complaints about the fraudulent practice and in some cases demoted or even terminated employees who attempted to put a stop to the false reports.

At the end of September, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Office of the Inspector General announced it would take over the investigation into quality-control issues. In the beginning of October, reports indicated that a garage being built as part of the second phase of the project was sinking.

Rail Tie Issues

Charles Stark, executive director for the Silver Line project, told The Washington Post the concrete rail ties, each weighing more than 1,000 pounds each, running 12-14 feet in length, were not inspected before installation because this kind of issue is not commonly occurring on railroad projects. Keith Couch, project director for the CRC, noted that all ties were inspected upon delivery to make sure that product specifications were met. Manufacturer Rocla Concrete Tie denied that the materials are faulty, and that they were made to product specifications.

Stark also said that the half-inch discrepancy could cause tracks to tilt outward.

The CRC has replaced some ties, but as for further fixes, the firm has suggested placing shims to even out the height of the remaining ties.

The Washington Metro and Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority dismissed the proposal as too maintenance-intensive. The CRC noted that this kind of issue could only have been spotted after the rail ties had been installed.

As it stands, the project is 13 months behind schedule, and figuring out a feasible repair or replacement plan may delay the project even further. Stark told The Washington Post that the CRC will be held accountable for any additional costs associated with the repair.

The second phase of the project is currently slated to open in 2020. The Federal Transit Administration has also been made aware of this latest issue, as the U.S. Department of Transportation contributed $900 million to the first phase, of the Silver Line project, with another $2 billion in federal loans being used for the second phase.

   

Tagged categories: Government; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Quality control

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