Sunday, August 31, 2014

Controlling the Silver Spring Transit Center discussion

update, 9/3/14:

Public information for the Silver Spring Transit Center debacle is tightly controlled by Montgomery County MD and the news media.

In March 2013 Montgomery County MD posted “Structural Evaluation of Superstructure” on its website. The multivolume report blames the SSTC’s serious design, construction and testing and inspection flaws on “errors and omissions” by the contractor/builder, Foulger Pratt, the design engineer, Parsons Brinkerhoff, and the concrete testing/inspection firm, and special quality inspector, Balter Company. 

Since March 2013 Montgomery County’s council, executive, staff, and paid and pro bono consultants have controlled information to the public through carefully crafted press releases and public statements that the news media (print, TV, radio, internet) have dutifully disseminated. What’s absent from the discussion is input from those other than Montgomery County politicians, bureaucrats and paid and unpaid consultants, and their minions, the news media.

Twice, on July 12, 2012 and again on January 9, 2013, Action Committee for Transit (ACT), a Montgomery County citizens' group advocating better transportation, asked Montgomery County's council to hold community meetings so that the public can learn the facts about the SSTC, and ask their questions, and provide their comments, on the public recordTWICE the County Council ignored these public requests.

Here are just some of the questions that the public wants answers for:
  • Why did Montgomery County select Foulger Pratt to build the SSTC instead of bidding it for construction, like most large public works’ projects?
  • Why did Montgomery County noncompetitively select Parsons Brinkerhoff to design the SSTC and Balter Co. to inspect and test concrete and serve as special quality inspector, rather than use the normal competitive process for selecting professional service firms for large public works' projects?
  • Why is Montgomery County spending tens of million$ “repairing” the SSTC when the public has paid more than retail for a brand new, unflawed transit center?
  • Why is Montgomery County spending tens of million$ “repairing” the SSTC when the “repairs” don’t address the source of the problem, that is, that the 315 ft. by 580 ft. SSTC has no expansion/contraction joints, despite the fact that standard construction practice, and WMATA design and construction standards, require structures that are exposed to temperature changes to have expansion/contraction joints. WMATA design and construction standards, to which the SSTC was supposed to have been designed and constructed, require expansion/contraction joints to be spaced no farther apart than every 100 feet
  • Why has David Dise, Montgomery County’s director of the Department of General Services, said repeatedly in public that “the SSTC will absolutely be safe” when neither Mr. Dise, nor anyone else for that matter, can predict the future?
  • Why hasn't the public, who are paying (53% federal funding, 11% state and 36% county) for the seriously flawed, yet-to-be-opened, $130+ million SSTC, been given the opportunity to ask their questions and to provide their comments on the public record?

Perhaps most galling of all is that news media that tout that they report “in depth” and “ask probing questions” have done neither with this major local story. News media have disseminated press releases and public statements from Montgomery County’s politicians and bureaucrats and their paid and unpaid consultants largely without question.

No comments:

Post a Comment