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Builder of Silver Spring Transit Center says Montgomery County unfairly vilifying company

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Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson

The contractor of the defect-riddled Silver Spring Transit Center says county officials are wrongfully blaming the company for the design and structural problems that have put the center in limbo for more than two years.

Bryant Foulger, principal of builder Foulger-Pratt, said he and his colleagues were disturbed at how the county portrayed the company while discussing a report that detailed the structural problems with the transit center.

County spokesman Patrick Lacefield said the report doesn't slam the company unjustly. He said Foulger-Pratt was part of the equation that made the center unsafe but that the county is not pointing fingers.

"We need to design remediations," Lacefield said. "The main point we're focused on is getting this thing fixed."

The county-funded report by KCE Engineering Services found the $124 million center is unsafe to use without major repairs, and found there was inadequate concrete strength and a lack of reinforcing steel, among other problems.

Foulger said, though, that the company has been falsely villainized by the county for the structure's problems and that it wasn't the company's job to ensure the design of the center was safe -- that rested in the hands of the county. He also said it's unfair for county officials to say they had no idea the structural integrity and the design were unsafe, since county inspectors were overseeing the project and the county approved the design drawings before construction began.

David Dise, the county's director of general services, said his department does deploy county staff to oversee the construction sites but that those employees are not inspectors.

One particular part of the project pointed out in KCE's report was concrete that was not properly reinforced on a level of the structure where buses would pick up and drop off passengers. Foulger said county employees evaluated the area before concrete was poured.

"Nothing we did was hidden to anybody at all," he said.

A document from the Balter Co. -- charged with inspecting the center -- shows that in January 2011 an inspector looked at the reinforcing steel on the level where buses would idle and determined the steel was installed "per specifications" in the design drawings.

Dise said the county told Foulger-Pratt throughout the construction process that there were problems found with the thickness of concrete and the steel cables. He also said the county is working as fast as it can to open the center.

But Dise said Foulger-Pratt's characterization that the company was wrongly blamed for the center's poor construction is false, though the blame doesn't fall entirely on the contractor.

"To anyone who read [the report], it's pretty clear that with all the parties involved ... no one party has been singled out," Dise said.

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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