Metro Orders Independent Assessment of Silver Line Project

An independent contractor will review the faulty concrete issue with Metro's $2.7 billion Silver Line expansion project.

General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld ordered an assessment of the condition of the concrete panels used in construction of stations in the second phase of the expansion to find solutions meeting engineering and safety standards.

Metro is not responsible for the construction but will accept the new line into its rail system when it's finished.

The concrete issues raised serious concerns about the durability and quality control of a massive regional transportation project, according to News4's exclusive report in April.

The federal government announced Wednesday it will join whistleblower Nathan Davidheiser’s civil lawsuit against Universal Concrete Products, the Pennsylvania company accused of using faulty concrete material in the panels.

"I would say that Nathan is really pleased that the United States took his case seriously, investigated it and discovered he was right," Scher said.

Officials for Universal Concrete Products did not immediately return a request for comment about the government's decision.

"It seems to me that if the company is willing to commit fraud here, who knows?" said David Scher, the attorney for the whistleblower.

“Based upon the recently unsealed federal complaint against Universal Concrete Products, it’s necessary for Metro to look at this with our own independent contractor to ensure whatever remedies are applied to the concrete are ultimately safe for our passengers and our employees,” Wiedefeld said in a statement. “We will continue to work collaboratively with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority as they oversee the construction of the Silver Line project, but let me be clear: Metro is committed to ensuring that any remedies are paid for by those responsible and that taxpayers and Metro customers are protected.”

Davidheiser filed the civil lawsuit in 2016. It was unsealed Monday by a federal judge in Alexandria. The suit alleges the concrete company altered testing results, including about water-to-cement ratios in some of the materials.

According to the lawsuit, one supervisor said, “It doesn’t matter if the ratio do not match the specifications.”

It also alleges a company supervisor told an employee to log results for tests that he’d never performed. The suit alleges a quality control supervisor said, “Make something up and make sure it’s a good number.”

According to the lawsuit, the wrong type of stone was used in the project. Sources said they don’t know of that will pose future problems.

Taxpayer money may be at stake because potentially hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of dollars of bad concrete has to be replaced and repaired in a project that’s still under construction.

"We also want to make sure that the Silver Line is fixed, that the concrete works, that the Metro doesn’t collapse sometime in the future," Scher said.

"Well I’m not worried about [it collapsing] now because I know that the prime contractor, I know that there is a fix going to be put in place, but I certainly was worried about that at the time we brought the case,” Scher said.

The largest worry about the project’s concrete involves panels that serve as walls for the new Metro stations. In some cases, the water-to-cement ratio is off, the steel inside the panels is not covered by enough concrete and there are insufficient safeguards for water to expand and contract. In all of these cases, water could penetrate the panels, leading to cracking and rusting.

The Silver Line extension is an 11.4-mile growth of the system to bring Metro trains to Reston Town Center and Dulles International Airport.

Silver Line officials say the timeline to open the project is on track, but more testing is coming.

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