Inside the Fight to Save the Silver Spring Transit Center - NBC4 Washington

Inside the Fight to Save the Silver Spring Transit Center

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    NEWSLETTERS

    News4 Transportation Reporter Adam Tuss took a tour of the troubled Silver Spring Transit Center Tuesday and talked to the engineering expert who was brought in to fix the facility. (Published Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014)

    Hundreds of metal bars, called stirrups, that were supposed to be tied off and closed for strength at the troubled Silver Spring Transit Center were instead left open, then buried in concrete.

    Much of the work taking place right now at the transit center is trying to locate the open stirrups inside the concrete, dig them up and close them off.

    "In the old days, we did calculations with our brain. Now everybody uses the computer as their brain. And the 'garbage in equals garbage out' scenario still holds," said Allyn Kilsheimer, president KCE structural engineers during a tour Tuesday.

    Kilsheimer is the man who is literally being called in to save this transit center, which is about $80 million over budget and two years behind schedule.

    As one county official put it, if Kilsheimer walked into a saloon full on contractors, the piano player would stop playing.

    "You didn't know what was causing a lot of the issues out here until you actually got in to run all the numbers and you said wait a minute, two and two is not five," he said while pointing out issues.

    Kilsheimer's pedigree is impressive. He was called in to help rebuild the Pentagon after the 9/11 attack. He also worked on the aftermath of the first World Trade Center bombing.

    He is old-school, and not afraid to take aim at the team that designed the transit center: Parsons Brinckerhoff.

    "I can't tell you why the designers missed these things that we are talking about. We just know they missed them," he said.

    Parsons Brinckerhoff said in a statement to News4: "We believe that the structure as designed is safe and durable. We continue to work with the county to open this Transit Center as soon as possible."

    A super-strength epoxy is also being mixed to help hold hundreds of new strut beams in place to provide extra support for the structure.

    News4 got an inside look at the building Tuesday. More than 50 rectangular sections of concrete have been pried back, while about 750 individual holes have been drilled to find problems.

    Much has been made about who is responsible for allowing the transit center to fall into a state of permanent disrepair. The center is now in a sort of limbo before it has even carried a single bus or passenger. Problem after problem seems to creep up.

    "Right now it couldn't carry the loads it was supposed to without developing serious issues over time," said Kilsheimer.

    The hope is that the transit center can be fully repaired and open next year.

    "I can commit to 2015," said David Dise, the director of General Services for Montgomery County, when pressed.

    When asked about which month in 2015 it might be, he reiterated, "I can commit to 2015."