County to hire firm for likely law­suits

Mont­gomery ex­pects lit­i­ga­tion stem­ming from tran­sit cen­ter project

The Washington Post Sunday - - OBITUARIES - BY BILL TURQUE bill.turque@wash­post.com

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.”

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