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Montgomery County, WMATA, fight over Silver Spring transit center

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SILVER SPRING, Md. (WJLA/NewsChannel 8) - In a scheduled update to the troubled Silver Spring Transit Center, Montgomery County councilmembers grilled representatives from WMATA, implying the agency may be skirting obligations to maintain the transit center when – or rather, if - it opens.

“I gotta tell ya, it isn't clear to me that you guys are really working with us, okay?” said councilmember Roger Berliner to two WMATA executives.

The project is a decade behind schedule, millions over budget, and is plagued by structural problems such as cracking concrete. WMATA has been a major partner since the beginning, and had planned to take over operating and maintaining the center after it opens.

Recently, WMATA made suggestions for how to fix some issues –specifically securing two critical concrete slabs.

The agency is urging the county to run expensive “stress tests” to learn more about the building’s weaknesses. If Montgomery County doesn’t oblige, WMATA says it won’t be able to pay for future maintenance costs.

In a July 19th letter, a WMATA executive said "If resolution cannot be achieved the County is considered to be on it's own...”

In the meeting Tuesday, WMATA kept its stance.

“We just want to make sure that we can provide the service that the region is expecting,” said Rodrigo Bitar, an assistant general manager for WMATA.

Berliner fired back, and pointed to WMATA’s obligation to approve every step of the project’s process.

“The notion that you have no less responsibility than our county does with respect to the current state of affairs is something where we would need to understand how you could take that posture,” Berliner said.

Miles from the bickering the structure stands dark and empty.

Residents like William Simpson say they’re tired of watching and waiting.

“And I know I'm not the only one, either,” Simpson said. “On the bus they’re talking about it. On the train they’re wondering when’s it gonna be open?”

David Dise has overseen much of the project and says if the two parties can come to a resolution, repairs could be finished by the end of the year.

“If expedited review does not occur, this could go into next year, and that’s what we’re trying to avoid,” Dise said.

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