County to hire firm for likely lawsuits
Montgomery expects litigation stemming from transit center project
Montgomery County is preparing to hire a law firm that worked on Boston’s “Big Dig” and other troubled public works projects to act as its special counsel for lawsuits expected to arise from the design and construction of the Silver Spring Transit Center.
County Attorney Marc Hansen has asked the County Council to approve the appointment of law firm Saul Ewing to assist with what is expected to be a flurry of legal claims and counterclaims. His request is on the agenda for Tuesday’s legislative session.
No lawsuits have been filed, either by the county or against it.
“We’re just putting our resources in order,” Hansen said in an interview.
The three-level, $140 million bus-and-train hub at Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road is four years beyond schedule and $50 million over budget. It is expected to open later this year after the county officially turns the facility over to Metro, which will operate it as part of its regional train and bus system.
General Services Director David Dise, the lead official on the project, said Friday that he has discussed possible dates with Metro for the handoff and that a decision could be announced as early as Monday.
In 2013, an engineering consultant hired by the county reported that the building was plagued by faulty design, inadequate steel reinforcement and weak concrete. Cracks in the roadway and supporting beams were discovered in early 2010.
The project’s designer, Parsons Brinckerhoff, general contractor Foulger-Pratt and the inspection firm Robert B. Balter, which is responsible for overseeing the quality of the concrete, all contend that they did nothing wrong.
Foulger-Pratt managing principal Bryant Foulger has said in interviews that his firm was following the county-approved design and depending on inspection reports from Balter.
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) has promised that the county will recover all cost overruns and hold responsible parties accountable.
Hansen and deputy county attorney John Markovs said Saul Ewing, which has offices in the District and 10 other East Coast cities, was selected because of its deep experience in construction litigation. The lead attorney working with the county will be Garry Boehlert, cochair of the firm’s construction practice.
Boehlert could not be reached for comment Friday. A biography on the firm’s Web site said he successfully defended an unnamed product manufacturer against wrongful-death lawsuits from the July 2006 ceiling collapse of the Interstate 90 tunnel in the massive Big Dig highway project in Boston.
Boehlert also won a jury verdict for a tunneling contractor in the Chicago Deep Tunnel project, a large flood and pollution control venture.
Hansen said there was no agreement with the firm on hourly rates because the council has yet to act. He did say, however, that the firm was prepared to offer the county “a discount.”