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Metro GM hopes to take control of troubled transit center

Tuesday - 5/14/2013, 5:10pm  ET

UPDATE: Tuesday - 5/14/2013, 5:03pm ET

WASHINGTON - Metro has agreed to take part in meetings with Montgomery County officials to come up with solutions to address the defective Silver Spring Transit Center.

County leaders have been holding weekly meetings to come up with solutions since a report came out in March detailing major structural problems with the center.

The transit hub is two years behind schedule and more than $80 million over budget.

EARLIER: Thursday - 5/9/2013, 11:26pm ET

WASHINGTON - Metro wants to change its deal with Montgomery County to cover any extra maintenance costs of running the flawed Silver Spring Transit Center.

General Manager Richard Sarles said Thursday he thinks Metro could assume control of the Silver Spring Transit Center but he wants to address the potential extra costs of maintaining a building that has substantial structural flaws.

Sarles said Metro is not backtracking from a letter sent to the county in April stating that the the transit agency would not operate nor maintain the transit center as described in a formal agreement with the county.

"We want to be in the Transit Center," Sarles says. "We want to operate out of it. But now we're dealing with the maintenance of the facility. Hopefully, I would like to see the fact that improvements are made to the facility so that we can operate and maintain it."

The letter also said that the unfinished and over-budget transit hub didn't meet certain standards and that even with improvements it "would unnecessarily place an inordinate maintenance burden onto WMATA."

In a follow-up email to the county, WMATA softened that position saying, "We had assumed all along that Metro would one day operate and maintain the Silver Spring Transit Center."

The email also suggests that the written agreement could be reworked to address Metro's future maintenance costs at the center.

"Our goal is to operate out of the Silver Spring Transit Center. On maintenance, that is something we'll be discussing with the county. I hope that we will come to a resolution that works for everybody," says Sarles.

Montgomery County officials had said they didn't believe the initial letter represented a final position. And Chief Administrative Officer Tim Firestine told the County Council the letter was legal posturing.

County spokesman Patrick Lacefield declined to comment on the Sarles' comments, but says the two sides will meet on Monday.

WMATA sent the letter following a recent engineering report that found severe structural flaws that pose a safety hazard at the transit hub. The county has pledged to fix the problems.

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