The federal government has poured at least $50 million in tax dollars into a poorly constructed and unusable transit center that sits abandoned just beyond the Capital Beltway in Silver Spring, MD.
Shoddy workmanship, lax oversight and serious management issues have plagued the Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center, which was first estimated, 16 years ago, to cost $40 million but now has a price tag of $120 million and counting.
The project, first begun in 1997 by local officials in Montgomery County, Maryland, was intended to allow easier pedestrian, vehicle and mass transit access to the D.C. Metro train system, Amtrak and the local commuter train, MARC. The original plans expected the transit center to open in 1998. Sixteen years later, the center remains shuttered and the costs have skyrocketed.
Regardless, millions of local, state and federal tax dollars keep flowing in. That’s why it earned a mention in Sen. Tom Coburn’s latest annual “Wastebook” report, which highlights what the senator calls the most egregious ways taxpayer money is wasted each year.
“Sometimes it costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time to build something great,” Coburn said in the report. For example, “It took one year and 45 days to complete New York’s Empire State Building for a cost of $41 million in 1931. But should it take more than 16 years and $120 million to complete a parking garage?”
The cost increases have approached nearly 500 percent, with the federal government providing nearly 50 percent of total funding. Though the costs keep adding up with no tangible results, county officials are still forging ahead. There is apparently no clear idea of when the project will be complete.
Last March, Montgomery County officials released an advisory report from KCE Structural Engineers on the transit center. The findings were far from ideal.
The engineering firm found the structure had inadequate concrete strength and a lack of reinforcing steel in critical areas of the hub, which, officials said, if left undetected could have resulted in “large chunks of concrete falling onto pedestrians and vehicles below,” according to The Washington Post.
KCE placed responsibility for this failure directly on Foulger-Pratt, and said both the contractor and the designer made omissions and errors that plagued the facility and made it unsafe. The contractors, however, disputed the claims and continue to blame the county for “mismanagement” issues.
“If there is an issue with safety here, it is related to design. That’s the county’s issue, not ours,” a spokesman for Foulger-Pratt told The Post.
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