Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Official Report: Transit Center "Severely Compromised"

More from the Gazette here.

According to Foulger-Pratt, they're just looking out for the people of their community. Why didn't the county just have a beer with F-P's clearly stellar engineers and hash this all out?
In a response to the report, Foulger-Pratt said, “The way in which this report was developed, however, is indicative of the county’s conduct throughout this entire process. Everyone in this community — including us — has been waiting for more than a year for the county to act. During that time, we made numerous requests for meetings between our engineers and the county’s engineers in order to sit down, as professionals, address any concerns and more forward for the benefit of the community.
You're doin' a heckuva job, Folger-Pratt! (Corporate motto: "We Build to Last")

Interestingly, the banner of FP's corporate website features a transit center-free downtown Silver Spring and the banner that once proudly hung from the worksite has been unceremoniously removed. Maybe they are trying to whitewash the whole project out of existence.


dwfma said...

heh, don't you just love this town... er, census-designated place!


in order to sit down, as professionals, address any concerns and more forward

reads more like "agree to fix everything before before the public had a chance to find out, lest we be robbed of future projects built on MoCo's dime."

Anonymous said...

I remember when this transit center project was first announced-- way back when the concept was initially introduced. And I just remember thinking, is this thing really necessary? What problem is it intended to solve? And I don't usually think that way... I don't have the time or inclination to worry about stuff like this. But for some reason this project had me scratching my head when it was first announced. Maybe I was onto something. :)

Ubermunch said...

First off... Folger Pratt can and will continue to bid on County projects because... get this... past performance on other projects is not entered into consideration for most every contract award process in MoCo.

Second... the report clearly blames design and oversight issues that go back to poor MoCo Govt. management.There's plenty of blame to go around.

Honestly... how is it that this has not become a big political issue? Why is it that Ike "A Very Serious Matter" Leggett seems to be completely free from blow-back on this?

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:56 is right. But to read Sligo's post one might think this was 100 percent Foulger Pratt's fault.

From what I read in that report, the design was flawed from the beginning.

Why didn't the county's engineering team notice that? Who drafted the design? Did the county actually delay in meeting with Foulger Pratt? While it makes for an amusing joke- that is a serious problem that the county needs to be held accountable for (if true).

I don't know if the county doesn't hold "past performance" as a criteria when awarding new contract bids- but given the way this country runs everything; I would not be shocked at all.

Anonymous said...

Anon, instead of asking a bunch of easy-to-answer questions why don't you try and read about the report first:

"according to the report, the center’s issues are caused “in varying degrees by errors and omissions” of the project designer, Parsons Brinkerhoff; the contractor, Foulger-Pratt Contracting, LLC and its subcontractors; and the inspection and materials testing firm and special inspections program special inspector, The Robert B. Balter Company."

Yep, it looks like the county will end up suing more than just F-P.

Justafed said...

Engineering reports are, as a rule and almost by design, pretty dry reading. Especially is there are no significant issues identified. So it is hair-raising to say that this is possibly the most interesting engineering report I have ever seen. You can almost see the main engineering contractor saying "WTF?" as they undercover the next bizarre thing and have to order up yet another substudy to calculate exactly ow bad the situation is.

As far as the county goes, I am sure there are problems on this side of the story as well. But when something like this is bid out, you do expect that the design has been correctly spec'ed and analyzed, and that when construction occurs, that it will follow the contracted specs, and that the inspector in the project (and this is no casual deal; for something this ig you need to identify and contract out for inspection, too) correctly inspected, and...basically that the firms perform the tasks as they are credentialed and certified to do. Which just did not happen here.

Anonymous said...

"KCE said Parsons Brinckerhoff’s design caused supporting steel cables within the concrete to become “over-stressed,” or wound too tightly. It was this pressure that caused the cracking in the concrete — and the exposure of steel rods — that triggered the initial concerns of county officials in 2011.

The cracking was compounded because concrete in various parts of the second level was not up to specifications, according to the report. Tests showed that concrete used by a subcontractor hired by Foulger-Pratt had a strength of 6,970 pounds per square inch. The contract called for a strength of 8,000 psi. The concrete was also not thick enough at various locations.

Most alarming, county officials said, was the absence of reinforcing steel in two critical 10-foot-by-40-foot slabs in the center of the bus roadway. Had the lack of steel gone undetected, the roadway could have failed, dislodging large chunks of concrete from the first-floor ceiling onto pedestrians and vehicles below, county officials said. KCE placed this failure directly on Foulger-Pratt."

It's remarkable. Inept contractors abound. This piece of shit is a complete nightmare. I'm glad the county had this study done so we're discussing this outside the context of dozens of dead bodies under rubble, but seriously. That's about the only silver lining I can think of.

Foulger Pratt's comments have made them look even stupider than before and I honestly didn't think that was possible. They are quite possibly the most inept, full of shit company I've ever seen.

Anonymous said...

I'm upset by all of this. I had braced myself for the worst and even this has exceeded that expectation.

I can't pretend to be an engineer. But, how does one explain the missing "reinforcing steel in two critical 10-foot-by-40-foot slabs". Oops doesn't cut it.

Again, I'm no engineer, but it seems like this is a couple of years worth of repairing even without the mediation.

And Dise stating he's going to do his best by making it less painful for the Silver Spring people. What, you've been holding out all this time? Free drinks every Friday? Honestly, he simply needs to hang his head and go.

Ike is considering running for re-election. What could he possibly say to DTSSers that would make people vote for him? He can kiss that idea away.

The very saddest part is the domino effect. Why invest in DTSS when the very center of it is an absolute mess? Hope for the future? Even just opening the metropolitan branch was 3 months late because they forgot to do it.

I'm a big fan of this area. But, this administration has screwed up royally on this one. I don't think it is an isolated incidant either. I think this will have major ramifications for time to come.

Anonymous said...

"Even just opening the metropolitan branch was 3 months late because they forgot to do it."

That stemmed from private work going on the Ripley side (1155 Ripley).

Anonymous said...

^^^^ OK, I'm glad they told you. Did they tell anyone else? When they promised a opening November they didn'y know about that work? Where was the communication?

Anonymous said...

I agree communication could be better on the county's part. Granted, I think they were pretty responsive once a few people started making a fuss when it wasn't yet open.

The county has a website w/transit center updates, but it's mostly vague and fluffy. I know the goalposts keep moving and there are few answers to all these issues and a county simply saying "we have no idea when X will finish out or Y will be resolved" doesn't make them look very good, but personally I'd find that non-info reassuring. At least compared to a black hole of no comms at all.

jag2923 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Terry in Silver Spring said...

Ok, so I'm over the initial shock. Still angry, but over the shock. My question is where do we go from here? Some have suggested tearing it down and starting over. Where will the money to do that come from? Folger Pratt, the design firm, the subcontractors? I doubt all of them together could afford that. Retrofits and repairs? Probably more likely. It's going to need a LOT of oversight and inspection to avoid being a half-arsed, cobbled together, sort of fixed, semi-functional concrete monstrosity in the heart of our neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the report, but I wonder how much it costs to just tear the thing down and start over. I thought a lot of the cost was environmental remediation from a former car dealership and utility work, so perhaps building the actual structure over again might be the best way to go. Commissioning further studies and then spending tens of millions on repairs just seems inefficient and will probably cost as much in the end as starting over.

Anonymous said...

The odd twist in this is that the county ends up suing the same company who's doing the fixing. At this point, FP is going to do everything it can to minimize cost. Same with the county. A long court case will serve no one well. In many ways, FP has the upper hand in all of this.

Anonymous said...

still blaming the contactor only I see. read the report...the design was flawed, the county didnt notice, and yes the contractor compounded the problem.

If you dont want to put blame on the county then:

- Let them promise to never ever hire FP again.

But they won't do that will they?

This county can't do much right can they? Remember the whole Fillmore mess? At least that got erected without falling down.

Bottom line:
FP needs to pack up its bags and never come back to Moco again and Ike leggit needs to be fired.

Anonymous said...

It's remarkable how some people seem to fixate on assigning blame and proposing resolutions to that without actually addressing the problem with the transit center. If you really want Ike Leggett (or anyone on the council, for that matter) to lose his job over this, there's always the next election. And, having the county's largest construction firm "pack its bags" will very likely solve everything, I'm sure.

Not to say that we shouldn't be angry over this, but sniping at each other over whether the contractors, sub-contractors, or various elements within the county government are most to blame is literally pointless. I suspect that these folks will be doing enough of that on their own over the next few months/years. We really aren't accomplishing anything by acting as their proxies.

Anonymous said...

You're correct anon, but the gall of FP to blame the county for the delay (since the county had this crazy idea that an outside engineering firm had to come and check out FP's "don't worry - it's fine!" claim) is the most infuriating thing about this.

If FP came out and said "crap, we botched this bad - let's get the engineers in here and figure out how to fix it" then I'd be much, much more willing to forgive and forget. The idiots (one or possibly two, it appears) on here trying to twist the facts to fit an anti-government agenda aren't much better. Both groups deserve the crap they're getting considering how they're acting in response to overwhelming fact.

Craig said...

I am skeptical about whether the structure can saved as indicated in the engineering report. But we'll see.

It would be cool to see a real building implosion set by a demolition company in downtown Silver Spring. Or would they use a wrecking ball on the unused transit center?

The County and Foulger Pratt royally fucked this project up.

I have never been so ashamed to be a resident of Silver Spring and Montgomery County.

Anonymous said...

The contractors kept going with the work even after issues were raised. I love how they planted trees on the structure even after all these things were brought to their attention. Coverup will need to be investigated by the Feds since half the money came from them. Beware of the politicians that want to "move forward" before a full investigation is complete.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we can revise the Blair's Propsal accross the street to include a transit center. Might be done quicker and just tear this mess down.

Anonymous said...

It's not just Foulger Pratt. It's Parsons Brinckerhoff who some may recall is responsible for the biggest transportation debacle in US history...The Big Dig. Look it up.

Anonymous said...

Who were the contractors on the Wheaton Plaza parking garage FU? Seems like a similar problem. You'd think the County would have learned something from that.

Anonymous said...

Parsons Brinkerhoff has been the engineering firm for the Purple Line.
The concrete sub did the ICC.
Where was MoCo DOT during all of this? Who reviewed the original design and construction documents, who in Gen Services reviewed the contract documents? Where were the checks and balances by the County since the construction industry failed every step of the way. A lack of oversight and competence by the county should be investigated as well.
So what about the Purple Line now, what about the MBT Bridge and Tunnel? Can we trust that the county can build any of these on time, on budget, and right? Maybe the county should try keeping it simple for once - since they can't seem to do complicated.
How about Bus Rapid Transit and at grade bike crossings and trails? I would rather have something to use now than wait 10 years for a design, construction, failure and litigation.

Anonymous said...

I vote for taking a wrecking ball to the monstrosity and just using the space as a bus loop. It obviously wouldn't be big enough to accommodate all of the buses that stop downtown but at lease SOME commuters would benefit. As it stands now, we're all getting screwed while the country and FP point fingers.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 6:04 "How about Bus Rapid Transit and at grade bike crossings and trails?"
In addition to the Transit Center, and Purple Line, Parsons Brinckerhoff is also the firm working on the BRT proposal.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 6:04, chill. You're acting like this 1 instance is the rule as opposed to, say, the thousands of other, successful public works projects currently ongoing on the county, much less over the last 200 years. Obviously, this clusterfuck of private design, build, and inspection firms all messing up so royally is the exception. Chill with the hyperbole.

Anonymous said...

"thousands of other, successful public works projects"

Granted, few if any of those other projects rely so heavily on private contractors. A liability, obviously, to trust work to the almighty "free market."

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Folger Pratt can make it their headquarters. As the prime contractor, they are ultimately responsible and they need to be held accountable. They managed the project and are responsible for the work of their subcontractors. Part of the risk on their part for sub-contracting work.

Anonymous said...

yeah wanting Ike Leggit fired and pointing out that MoCo government cant' get much right, while adding the FP is a bunch of screwups = "anti-government". Right. Got it.

Anonymous said...


How pathetic is your county if Metro can thumb thier noses and look down at your crappy infrastructure?

Anonymous said...

Who won the Progress Place project? The Developer has to build the homeless shelter and 2 decks of structured parking and in return gets the primo development site where Progress Place currently sets. Hope it isn't any of the current crew responsible for the TC.
BTW: The TC ramp leads up to Ripley and is a nice walk. But after you pass the Solaire then Ripley turns into a ratty dark alley like area. Bad street lighting and lots of people hanging around for dinner at Progress Place.

Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting for a convincing explanation for why this project was necessary or even desireable in the first place.

Anonymous said...

"I'm still waiting for a convincing explanation for why this project was necessary or even desireable in the first place."

So that capacity could be expanded (as needed) while the footprint shrunk enough for 3 new buildings to go in right next to the metro? It makes a ton of sense, at least until you pass the idea along to private firms and watch them drop the ball...and then stomp on the ball...and then claim the deflated ball is just fine and MoCo is unnecessarily delaying the opening.

Patrick Thornton said...

This structure most be torn down. Who here would ever trust to be on this? I have visions of that bridge over the Mississippi collapsing.

The structure should be torn down, the land sold and buildings placed on top of the land. The buses can stay on the streets, where they aren't in danger of collapsing a shoddy structure. Why was the most valuable land in all of Silver Spring being taken up by a parking garage in the first place?

Roslyn, Metro Center, etc. are all major transit hubs and they don't need an above ground parking structure.

Beyond that, people need to be held criminally and/or civilly liable for this. This seems like deliberate cost cutting that was hoping to go undetected until a decade from now the thing collapses and hundreds of people die.

Anonymous said...

The fun part in this debacle will be what the current crop of elected "leaders" in Rockville will do about it. Perhaps this time, the public will remember their action/inaction on elction day in 2014. Of course this would take a major break in the tradition of county voters being suckers who seem to have unlimited funds to give to incompetents.

Pete said...

Anyone who connects different forms of public transit in Silver Spring will attest that if executed properly the transit center wouldn't have been a waste of space or money. Since they broke ground, people who connect bus to metro, bus to bus, bus to MARC, etc. have had to walk significant extra distances every day and deal with additional congestion from buses and cabs parked or blocking the streets around the metro station...

How many man-hours have been wasted just in added commute time during the construction delays that now stretch indefinitely into the future?

Gull said...

@Patrick, and others who don't understand the reason for this project

Places like Rosslyn and Bethesda benefit from the Metro being underground. They have big bus bay centers but they are under big buildings, and are able to intercept Metro riders as they surface. In Silver Spring, the metro is raised in the air, hence, the bus and cab transfers should be above ground. The whole point of building this 3 level structure was to free up half of the area of the existing bus bay surface lot for development. Could the center have been pressed against Wayne or Ramsey Street, sure, but then you'd see the ugly building for all time. Instead they pushed the structure against the train tracks, so that nice building fronts can instead activate Wayne and Ramsey in the future. Leaving the buses all along Wayne is not the answer, I can't stand walking up that street when the Buses are busy, there are too many people, and the roar and fumes of the buses make it unpleasant. Getting these buses in their own center will go a long way to helping clean up the appearance of Silver Spring.

The mistake here was trying to be too fancy with the interior design. If they had actually designed this like a standard parking structure it probably would have plenty of redundant strength, but they did this open floor plate design, leaving little room for engineering mistake. I do agree there is a big liability case to be had, and i'm not beyond suggesting that the whole project (or at least more than half of it) may need to be removed and rebuilt, but the 'idea' of the center, as built, is sound.

Anonymous said...

Patrick, you're comparing apples and oranges. Silver Spring has dozens of bus lines and tens of thousands of people taking them.

Anonymous said...

Major conflict of interest here. Parsons Brinckerhoff was in the role of overseeing the on site management of a project that they designed. As they say, coverup always worse than the crime.

Anonymous said...

Who allowed that conflict of interest?

Anonymous said...

"Parsons Brinckerhoff was in the role of overseeing the on site management"

The heck does that even mean? Foulger is the GC (manage construction and subcontractors) and another private company is the inspection firm. You're probably just wrong about Brinckerhoff being involved at this point, or if they are then they certainly don't have a major role. I'm almost sure it's the former, though I supposed the later is possible.

Anonymous said...

@anon 10:44 AM
You said "You're probably just wrong about Brinckerhoff being involved at this point, or if they are then they certainly don't have a major role."

Obviously you haven't read the report. Here is just some of what you're missing:
"The Contracts we reviewed included those between:
Montgomery County and Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade and Douglas, Inc. (PB) (aka Parsons
Brinckerhoff Americas, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Inc.) (PB) for Project design

Montgomery County and Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade and Douglas, Inc. (PB) (aka Parsons
Brinckerhoff Americas, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Inc.) (PB) for on site “Construction Project

"Based on our review of the information provided, the design depicted in/on the Contract
Documents was not prepared in accordance with the applicable Building Code(s), the WMATA
Manual of Design Criteria or Industry Standards. Based on our analysis, failure of the design to
follow applicable codes and standards resulted in widespread cracking in the slabs, beams, and
girders, and reductions of minimum concrete cover requirements."

There's a lot more in there if you want to read it. There are multiple issues and parties but it started with the design and snowballed.

Anonymous said...

Not the original person to ask "The heck does that even mean?", but I will note that none of the quotes from above actually address the question or provide much in the way of insight on the role of Parsons Brinckerhoff post-design. Perhaps it is also notable that "on site" isn't quoted in the excerpt.

Again, I didn't ask the original question, but I thought the conflict of interest charge was strained--or, at the very least unsubstantiated--in one of the comments above. So, this discussion has been interesting to me. While Parsons Brinckerhoff's design seems to also be at fault in this whole debacle, I still do not see how the claim of conflict of interest has been supported much at all.

Anonymous said...

A design firm never simply disappears completely after the design is set. They remain active, but only in the sense of being available to explain/tweak the design as-needed. I haven't any idea how much of that occurred, but that's what design firms do. It's not a conflict of interest - that's just the nature of bridging the design/engineer/construction gaps. PB, as discussed, obviously don't deal with the physical construction or inspection of the building.

Anonymous said...


If the Washington Post wanted to do some investigative journalism, I think they might be surprised to learn some things that people in the industry already know. Especially how Montgomery Co. has a track record of looking the other way when it comes to qualifications of inspection firms on public projects. If the Post is reading this, I suggest you contact ASTM or WACEL to learn a little about what the inspection requirements and qualifications are all about. Mo Co SCHOOLS don't even follow the county's own Special Inspection program that every private business must follow! Washington Post... look into the qualifications of the firms doing inspection on the schools where kids go to school every day. Do they meet the industry standard??? I hope it doesn't take a disaster with multiple deaths to wake someone up. Didn't we already learn that from Bailey's Crossroads in the 1970's and the Kansas City Hyatt in the 80's??

Anonymous said...

Montgomery County at it's finest. The County that makes private developers jump through a million hoops to build a popsicle stand can't manage their own project. Somebody probably deserves to go to jail over this. $80 million over budget? If there are a million residents in Montgomery County, every man woman and child paid over $100 for this monstrosity. What exactly is it? A big bus stop? I ride the bus, by the way, from Silver Spring regularly. I think we could get by without this. Tear it down and sell the lot to a private developer to recoup some of the cost, sue the contractors and elect some new county officials. And I wonder how many five cent plastic bags worth of plastic were wasted on this?

Anonymous said...

mjwsteele wrote:

11:40 AM EDT

The county is in a tight spot since they commisioned the project. The ill-conceived project was the idea of the county. I read all the comments and did not see any that questioned the selection process of the design team.
I declined to bid the the project. I could tell there were problems with the design.
Problems like this do not happen because the inspector didn't do their job or the concrete was found to be out of spec. Nor do they happen because low-level government managers not do their job or a contractor tried to cut corners.
Likely the court will find the designers liable and will have to work out a deal with the county to split the cost of repairs...tens of millions. While good-intentioned, the project was bone-headed from the start.

Harold Scott said...

not above or in recent press have I seen former senator Sarbanes name mentioned. but the project is named for him. seems appropriate would turn out to be a dud.

Anonymous said...

So when are Ike Leggit and company going to propose new tax hikes to cover the costs of this project?

Anonymous said...

Proof the county is run by morons:


They are using the same idiots to rebuild the thing.

Any of you guys want to keep defending these idiots?

Anonymous said...

They are using the same idiots to rebuild the thing.

Any of you guys want to keep defending these idiots?

I believe the County has been idiotic in many ways, but probably not this one. What do you want them to do? To hire all new crews to design, build and monitor the remediation would cause even ungodlier delays and cost a lot, lot more taxpayer money. Sure, we could try to sue to collect that, but a lawsuit is never any guarantee and "Your Honor, why should we pay these damages when we offered to fix it ourselves for free?" is a pretty compelling defense. All that is assuming you could even find another company willing to touch this clusterf**k with a 10 foot pole.

Anonymous said...

"They are using the same idiots to rebuild the thing.

Any of you guys want to keep defending these idiots?"

Wow. Some commenters embarrass themselves so badly on here. You prefer the county spend years rebidding the work, reappropriating tons of new taxpayer $$, etc.? You prefer to let the current companies off the hook instead of forcing them to complete remediation on their own dime? Are you Mr. Pratt? If not, you're the complete idiot.

Anonymous said...

"So when are Ike Leggit and company going to propose new tax hikes to cover the costs of this project?"

He already has:

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Anonymous said...

Will Parsons Brinckerhoff or Folger Pratt be allowed to bid on future MoCo projects? Seems like with this mess they should be banned for 5-10 years at least. Can anyone answer this question?

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