County Agrees To Settle Silver Spring Transit Center Lawsuit
Contractors to pay $25 million after structural problems caused cost overruns and delayed bus depot’s opening
Silver Spring Transit Center
The legal wrangling over who is responsible for construction problems at the Silver Spring Transit Center that caused tens of millions of dollars of cost overruns has come to an end.
Montgomery County announced Tuesday the contractors that built the structure have agreed to pay the county a $25 million settlement.
County Executive Ike Leggett said that amount will cover most of the estimated $30 million the county spent on remediation costs to strengthen the concrete and steel beams at the structure, whose formal name is the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit Center.
“Obviously I’m delighted that we have a settlement,” Leggett said in an interview Tuesday. “The parties made an offer that we considered over the weekend and I decided it was in the public interest to accept it and that’s what I did.”
The $140 million transit center that connects the Silver Spring Metro station with several of the area’s bus lines opened in September 2015, four years after it was originally scheduled to open.
The settlement comes as county attorneys were engaged in a trial that began May 10 in Montgomery County Circuit Court involving attorneys for the project’s developers and builders—Parsons Brinckerhoff, The Robert B. Balter Co. and Facchina Construction Co.
The county argued the contractors were negligent and made misrepresentations in design documents that led to sheer and torsion issues with the steel beams installed at the concrete bus depot. Those issues resulted in concrete cracking before the center opened, according to the county.
The cracking led the county to undertake an engineering review that found the failing concrete presented a safety issue to transit center users. The repairs were later made by the contractors.
Attorneys for the contractors had alleged the transit center was safe when the contractors completed construction and that the county failed to address any construction issues while crews were working on it.
The settlement agreement does not include money to pay the county’s attorneys’ fees, which Leggett estimated will cost between $8 million and $10 million, or for damages. Initially the county was pursuing $47 million to pay for cost overruns and $20 million in damages in the case.
None of the parties admitted wrongdoing under the terms of the settlement agreement. The county also was unable to recover the approximately $8 million it paid to KCE Structural Engineers to evaluate the structure after cracks were found in the concrete.
“It doesn’t get us everything that we would have wanted,” Leggett said.
Foulger-Pratt, the development company that was the project’s general contractor, denied any liability related to the construction issues. As part of the settlement agreement, the county agreed to give Foulger-Pratt $3 million of the $25 million settlement to pay for additional repair work done by the company at the center.
Leggett said continuing to pursue the case in court presented the risk of mounting attorneys’ fees as well as the possibility that future appeals could mire the case in years-long legal delays.
In addition to the remediation costs, the center’s overall cost rose because of clean-up expenses related to environmental contamination at the site and increases in construction costs beyond what was estimated when the project was proposed more than a decade ago, Leggett said.
He said he stands by his decision three years ago to have the county pay to repair the center so it could open instead of waiting for a court to decide who should pay for the remediation work.
“If you look at it, we have a center that will stand for the next 50 years,” Leggett said. “It’s open, people are utilizing it appropriately. We fought through it and we made the right decisions. I think we have come through this OK.”