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No firm date on troubled Silver Spring Transit Center

Tuesday - 4/8/2014, 7:35pm  ET

WASHINGTON -- It was supposed to open in 2011: a glittering new hub in the Washington region's transportation system. But there's still no firm date on when the troubled Silver Spring Transit Center will be open for use.

At a meeting to update the Montgomery County Council, David Dise, director of the county's Department of General Services, told the council it was expected that the transit center could be handed over to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority by summer. But that doesn't mean buses will be rolling in and out of the transit hub by then. Dise said it's hoped that the county could turn the facility over to WMATA by late summer or early fall -- but there could be further delays.

Dise told council members that KCE, a firm hired to analyze the many flaws in the building, still had concerns over what's known as "shear and torsion," which two forces that stress the structure and could result in further cracks in the concrete. Dise emphasized to reporters afterwards that the problems don't mean the building isn't safe.

"This structure's already survived an earthquake," he said, but the stresses of the two forces could have an effect on the long-term durability of the building.

The question, Dise said, was whether and when further repairs to address the torsion and shear were needed.

Glenn Orlin, deputy administrator to the Montgomery County Council, put it this way, "This is a risk assessment."

If it's believed that the shear and torsion would become more serious problems, Orlin said, "Maybe the best thing is to do the work now, open it six months later and not have this issue in the future." While no one wants additional delays, Orlin said it would make more sense than opening the transit center only to close it again for more work that could take up to another year to complete.

While WMATA, Foulger-Pratt and Parsons Brinckerhoff and the county negotiate over the work that remains to be done, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett is waiting for a report from Norm Augustine, who was chosen by Leggett to consult on the final repairs. Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin, was selected to do the consulting work with three other members of an advisory panel sought by Leggett. Dise says Augustine's help is coming at no cost to the taxpayers.

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