Thursday, December 4, 2014

Reasons not to use the public-private partnership Silver Spring Transit Center

1. Concrete cracking

photographs are from KCE's & WMATA's reports for the Silver Spring Transit Center
SSTC Structural Evaluation Report, March 15, 2013, KCE Structural Engineers, Inc.

Needless to say, cracking like this in a brand new, yet-to-be-opened structure is not normal. The SSTC hasn't seen its first fully-loaded bus. 

2. The SSTC doesn't have expansion joints (the likely source of the widespread cracking).

Standard construction practice requires expansion joints in structures exposed to temperature changes. WMATA design and construction standards, to which the SSTC was supposed to have been designed and built, require expansion joints be spaced no farther apart than every 100 feet. The 315 ft. by 580 ft. SSTC has none. Ongoing repairs to the SSTC will not fix cracking caused by its total lack of expansion joints.

3. Under-strength and overstressed concrete.

"Based on in situ sampling and testing performed, the concrete in the structural decks has lower compressive strength than required by the Contract Documents. The compressive strength is also lower than that reported by construction period sampling and testing."
SSTC Structural Evaluation Report, March 15, 2013, KCE Structural Engineers, Inc.
SSTC Structural Evaluation Report, March 15, 2013, KCE Structural Engineers, Inc.
Needless to say, ongoing repairs to the SSTC will not replace all of the SSTC's under-strength and overstressed concrete.

NOTE: The point here is that even though external reinforcement can be used to strengthen under-strength and overstressed beams, reinforcing the beams externally does not rid them of the under-strength and overstressed concrete that shouldn't be there in the first place. The SSTC is a LEMON.

The same can be said of the SSTC's complete lack of expansion joints. You can make an argument that the SSTC won't collapse because it doesn't have expansion joints; but, expansion joints are (1) standard construction practice, (2) a contract requirement (adherence to WMATA design and construction standards) and (3) the SSTC's total lack of expansion joints will result in higher-than-normal operations and maintenance costs.The SSTC is a LEMON that the public will be paying through the nose for for decades.

Silver Spring Transit Center

4. Deck slabs thinner than the 10 inches thick called for in the Contract Documents.

"Our survey results indicate that the slab thickness varied from approximately 7 to 12-1/4 inches. The slab thickness variations (particularly in the "thin" slab areas) impact initial and service level stresses as well as shear and moment capacities."
SSTC Structural Evaluation Report, March 15, 2013, KCE Structural Engineers, Inc.

5. Exposed and missing reinforcement

"... no additional cores were taken from Pour Strips due to their inherent unacceptability due to cracking and missing reinforcing ..."
SSTC Structural Evaluation Report, March 15, 2013, KCE Structural Engineers, Inc.

7. Perhaps the biggest reason of all:

We can:
  • see chunks of concrete falling from the SSTC.
  • see that the SSTC doesn't have expansion joints.
  • see the SSTC's cracks.
  • see reinforcement sticking out of the SSTC's slabs, beams, girders and columns.
  • measure the thickness (or lack thereof) of the SSTC's slabs.
  • take some random samples and test the strength (or lack thereof) of the hardened concrete at that particular location.

We can't:
  • see inside the SSTC's hardened concrete slabs, beams, girders, and columns.
  • see what reinforcement may be missing.
  • see if the reinforcement buried inside the SSTC's hardened concrete is the right grade (strength), size (diameter) and length. 
  • see if rebars are tied properly to other rebars around them.
  • test all of the SSTC's hardened concrete, in its entirety, at all locations, to determine its strength (or lack thereof).
  • retrofit the SSTC for expansion joints when the SSTC wasn't designed or built with expansion joints in the first place.

That's why the statement "the SSTC will absolutely be safe" is absolutely absurd.

Fortunetellers can't predict the future.
Neither can David Dise nor anybody else.

NOTE:  Funding for the SSTC (from your taxes and user fees) is 53% federal (administered by the Federal Transit Admnistration), 11% state (administered by the Maryland Transit Administration) and 36% local (Montgomery County). It is unclear why the news media (print, TV, radio, internet) have failed to cover the SSTC "in-depth" and to ask "probing questions" * that they so highly tout.

* such as, why did Montgomery County non-competitively select Foulger Pratt to build the SSTC, Parsons Brinkerhoff to design it and Balter Co. to inspect and test concrete and to serve as special quality inspector when contractors, engineers and materials' inspection and testing firms are selected competitively for most public works' projects? Why didn't Montgomery County hold public meetings before making "repairs" to the brand new, yet-to-be-opened LEMON SSTC where the paying public can ask their questions and make their comments on the public record? Why are "repairs" being made to the severely flawed, LEMON SSTC when those "repairs" won't fix the sources of the problems (cracking, etc.), e.g. the SSTC's complete lack of expansion joints? 

Once a LEMONalways a LEMON.

Silver Spring Transit Center

8. "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link."

9. Listen to Kojo: 

Berliner: "No one should take that chance."

You're right, Mr. Berliner. No one should take that chance.

Mr. Berliner, with all due respect, you're playing fortuneteller too, just like David Dise. Let's get real and talk facts. The public are currently paying for repairs to the LEMON SSTC. Until the SSTC is fully litigated, it's "wishful thinking" to say that the public won't be stuck with costs for this LEMON. Some of us won't be happy until the full amount ($130+ million, and rising) is reimbursed to public coffers

Furthermore, if you and some of your constituents believe that Foulger Pratt and Balter Co. are "tops in the country" (contractor and inspection/testing firm, respectively), then there's a bridge in Brooklyn that you may want to buy.

Tom Sherwood, good idea! Tear it down and build a skateboard park. 

This time around, let's hope that Montgomery County selects a contractor, engineer, construction manager and materials' inspection and testing firm competitively (like most public works projects), based on qualifications and cost, rather than selecting them noncompetitively (public-private partnership), based on politics (crony capitalism).

10. Listen to the video made by Silver Spring high school students James Hall, Mario Lemus & Milton Flores: 

Silver Spring Transit Center

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Silver Spring Transit Center: the Great American Ripoff

update, 9/3/14:
update, 8/31/14:

The Silver Spring Transit Center = the Great American Ripoff

It's not a fairy tale. The Great American Ripoff is crony capitalsim
a.k.a. public private partnership
a.k.a. the Silver Spring Transit Center
53% federal funding--that's YOU, taxpayers. from sea to shining sea. Montgomery Co. MD is into YOUR pocket: California, Montana, Alaska, etc.--ALL 50 states. YOU are paying for inflated contracts (political "contribution$" have to come from somewhere) that Montgomery Co. MD politicians give to their political cronies.
$130+ million for a LEMON transit center that Montgomery County MD has the nerve to charge American taxpayers to "fix". never mind that taxpayers are paying inflated prices for a brand new, UNFLAWED transit center, NOT for a flawed LEMON.
Don't expect to hear about the Silver Spring Transit Center/Great American Ripoff from news media. They're too busy reporting weather hour by hour, social media trends, self-promotion ("we report 'in-depth' and ask 'probing questions'", which CLEARLY the news media DON'T) and other non-news nonsense. 

What news media haven't reported is the rest of the iceberg.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"More than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to collection agencies, according to a study released Tuesday by the Urban Institute.
These consumers fall behind on credit cards or hospital bills. Their mortgages, auto loans or student debt pile up, unpaid. Even past-due gym membership fees or cellphone contracts can end up with a collection agency, potentially hurting credit scores and job prospects, said Caroline Ratcliffe, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank."
 If you have a complaint against a cellphone company and their debt collectors for fraudulent, harassing business practices, then file a complaint with the FTC:

Friday, July 25, 2014

Silver Spring Transit Center public-private partnership and crony capitalism

"PPP (Public Private Partnership) managers face much weaker innovative forces - if things go wrong, they can always appeal to their "public" nature for taxpayer bailouts."

Sound familiar? Is Fred Smith a modern-day Nostradamus? Did he see the SSTC debacle coming in November 2010? (Fred Smith's Competitive Enterprise Institute is located only 7 miles due south from PPP, lemon, Silver Spring Transit Center.)

Question: Why haven't the local Washington DC news media (print, TV, radio, internet), with all of their boasts about "in-depth reporting" and "probing questions", reported:

  • why Montgomery County MD chose Foulger Pratt to build the Silver Spring Transit Center, Parsons Brinkerhoff to design it and Balter Company to provide concrete inspection and testing and to serve as Special Quality Inspector?
  • if political contribution$ were part of the $election proce$$?

Could it be that the local Washington DC news media:
  • have cozy relationships with local politicians?
  • are inept?
  • are lazy?
  • all of the above?

53% of the funding for the SSTC is federal funding. ALL of us are paying for the overdue, overbudget, severely flawed, $130+ million, lemon Silver Spring Transit Center.

For more on the Silver Spring Transit Center:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

why do structures collapse?

why do structures collapse?

  • faulty design?
  • faulty construction?
  • faulty construction inspection and materials testing?
  • all of the above?
An independent investigation is needed to determine why a structure fails. 
The independent investigation must address:
  • the engineer, including how the engineer was selected, and the engineer's relationship with the government
  • the builder, including how the builder was selected, and the builder's relationship with the government
  • the construction inspector and materials tester, including how the construction inspector/materials tester was selected, and the construction inspector's relationship with the government
  • public-private partnership? crony capitalism?

Without an independent investigation, we will never know why a structure collapsed.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Silver Spring Transit Center: how it happened, who’s at fault and who pays

On a personal note, it's been frustrating to read and listen to all the "experts" make public statements regarding the safety of the SSTC, and other matters, while lacking basic technical knowledge on the subject--"talking through their hats". Public officials making public statements, especially regarding the safety of the SSTC, should KNOW that their public statements are technically accurate BEFORE they make them. If public officials lack the technical knowledge in construction and engineering to know that the public statements that they make are accurate, then IMHO they shouldn't make them.

The news media have reported numerous times that David Dise, Director of the Montgomery County Department of General Services, says: “The SSTC will absolutely be safe”HOGWASH! Dise can't guarantee that the SSTC will be safe, any more than ANYONE can predict the future. Dise may THINK that the SSTC will be absolutely safe; but, he doesn’t KNOW that the SSTC will be absolutely safe. It’s Dise’s OPINION that the SSTC will be safe. And, we all know what they say about opinions—they all stink. Stick to the FACTS, Mr. Dise. If you choose to make your OPINIONS public, then be clear to the public that it's your OPINION, NOT A FACT.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

The Vietnam War segment on the CNN series "The Sixties" contains a taped 1965 conversation between Sen. Richard Russell and President Lyndon Johnson in which Russell told Johnson that he "couldn't have inherited a worse mess (the Vietnam war)." 

Johnson replied: "Well, if they say I inherited it, I'd be lucky, but they'll all say I created it. Dick, the trouble is, the great trouble I'm under, a man can fight if he can see daylight down the road somewhere, but there ain't no daylight in Vietnam. There's not a bit."

If Johnson had told the American people "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth", then do you think that the American people would have stood for sending HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of their sons, grandsons, husbands, etc. into a war that we couldn't win?

Government of the People, by the People and for the People lying to the People. 
As Yogi (Berra) said: "It's deja vu all over again."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

contempt of congress

Has the traditional meaning of "Contempt of Congress" changed (

Check the daily news: constant partisanship, bickering, In fighting and ineptness. Look at the Congress' approval rating. I believe that the traditional meaning of "Contempt of Congress" has changed.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

California teacher tenure 

“The evidence this court heard was that it could take anywhere from two to almost ten years and cost $50,000 to $450,000 or more to bring these cases to conclusion under the Dismissal Statutes, and that given these facts, grossly ineffective teachers are being left in the classroom because school officials do not wish to go through the time and expense to investigate and prosecute these cases,” said Judge Treu’s ruling.


Saturday, May 31, 2014


VA administrators falsifying waiting lists to get bonuses and promotions. 

General Shinseki says: “I don’t understand the lack of integrity.” 

President Obama and others in Congress say that those who falsified records for their own personal gain should be held accountable. 


I’ve got news for you, General Shinseki. There is no integrity today. 

And, I’ve got news for you, President Obama and members of Congress, replacing one crook with another is NOT accountability.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

a personal note

When I first read the report, “Structural Evaluation of Superstructure, Silver Spring Transit Center, March 15, 2013” prepared by KCE Structural Engineers, I was shocked and saddened. How could a public works project go so wrong? What does this say about integrity in government and in the engineering profession which I chose more than 50 years ago? 

The SSTC’s design and construction flaws are serious. The fact that KCE’s report blames the SSTC’s serious flaws on the builder’s, the engineer’s and the concrete inspector/tester’s “errors and omissions” is troubling. Equally troubling for me is the fact that the SSTC was almost complete when the SSTC’s serious flaws came to the public’s attention. Who was “minding the store”? Anyone who is involved in construction, particularly those who have been involved in construction for more than 50 years, knows the importance of “minding the store”.

As disturbing as KCE’s report was to me, the events of the past 15 months since the KCE report became public have been equally disturbing. Public statements by public officials and others involved in the aftermath of KCE’s March 15, 2013 report have been less than forthright at best and downright deceitful at worst. 

I find the often repeated public statements of David Dise (director of the Montgomery County Department of General Services) and others who have made public statements about the SSTC’s safety particularly disturbing. Mr. Dise has been quoted repeatedly in the news media as saying “The SSTC will absolutely be safe". The fact is that neither Mr. Dise, nor anyone else, knows that the SSTC will be safe. His statement, along with those of others regarding the SSTC’s safety, is his opinion. It cannot be proven that the SSTC will be safe; and, IMHO, for public officials and others to make such public statements is irresponsible at best and outright deceitful at worst.

Equally disturbing for me to the public statements of those involved in the design and construction of the SSTC and its aftermath has been the lack of response by the Federal Transit Administration, the Maryland Transit Administration, and others whose responsibilities include protecting the public’s interests. The news media itself (print, TV, radio, internet) have done a particularly poor job in covering this story. The news media prides itself in its supposed “in-depth reporting” and “probing questions”. For the most part, I’ve seen none of that here; the news media have mostly published the public statements of those involved in the SSTC aftermath without “in-depth reporting” and without asking “probing questions”. 

I’ve found that unless you’re a public official or a member of the news media that it’s next-to-impossible to be heard on important issues such as serious flaws with the Silver Spring Transit Center. Search “Silver Spring Transit Center” on the internet and most of what you’ll find are news media reports and press releases and public statements from government officials on their websites. What’s largely missing is the other side of the story.

I don’t know how all of this will turn out. Will Montgomery County press ahead with its “repairs” to the SSTC without input from the public? It appears that way. Montgomery County hasn’t held public meetings to answer the public’s questions or obtain their comments on the public record. Will WMATA accept the seriously flawed SSTC? Will there be an independent investigation into why and how this happened? Is the fact that design and construction of the SSTC is a public-private partnership partly to blame? Will the public ever know the “other” side of the story? It appears to me that they will not; and, that shocks and saddens me.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Boys Tossed From Flyaway Bounce House Still in Hospital

"... nylon playhouse at a South Glens Falls townhouse community Monday afternoon when the 38-pound Little Tikes toy product broke loose from plastic anchoring stakes, local police said. Commercial bounce houses rented for parties and other events are made of heavy vinyl, weigh 200 to 250 pounds and are secured by 18-inch steel stakes."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Federal Transit Administration

Today, March 6, 2014, I received my third "automatically generated email" response to a question that I asked the Federal Transit Administration on February 8, 2014 using the "Contact Us" feature on the FTA's website:

From  Automated Email Notification <FTA> fta.sqlexecserv@dot.govhide details  
To  rkoenigsc 
Thu, Mar 6, 2014 12:00 am

DO NOT REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE. This is an automatically generated email from FTA's Contact Us Tool. Contact information is located at the end of this message. 

Question: I am a retired civil engineer. My question concerns the Silver Spring Transit Center in Montgomery County, MD. 53% of the funding for the SSTC is being provided by FTA and 11% by MMTA. In March 2013 the County reported that it had contracted with local Washington, D.C. engineering firm KCE to evaluate extensive cracking in the yet-to-be-opened Silver Spring Transit Center. KCE's report attributes the extensive cracking to errors and omissions by the SSTC's builder/contractor Foulger Pratt, the engineer/designer Parsons Brinkerhoff and the concrete tester/inspector and special quality inspector Balter Co. KCE's report addresses other serious flaws: slabs more than an inch thinner than the 10 inches thick slabs called for in construction documents, exposed reinforcement, missing reinforcement and other construction, design and inspection and testing flaws. Since release of the KCE report last March, other flaws have been discovered: 250 beams that are under-designed, leaks, etc. The County intends to add a two inch thick latex concrete overlay to the SSTC in spring 2014 after freezing temperatures have passed. Missing from numerous media reports and public statements from Montgomery County officials is an announcement for a public meeting(s) where those paying for the SSTC are given the opportunity to ask County officials our questions and to make our comments for the record. Why? Why hasn’t FTA required public meetings to allow paying citizens to provide their input?

The answer to your question requires additional research. We are currently working towards providing an answer to your question and will be in contact with you soon.

If you have any difficulty accessing the Contact Us Tool, please contact DOT IT Services at 1-866-466-5221.

I received my first "automatically generated email" on Feb. 8. It acknowledged that the FTA received my question.

I received my second "automatically generated email" (update) on Feb. 28. Except for the date, it is identical to the "automatically generated email" that I received today (March 6).

Is anybody home at the FTA? Or is the FTA like the IRS--they don't answer questions from citizens. 

The US government is on autopilot. Small wonder that millions of dollars have been and are being wasted on the Silver Spring Transit Center.

Decades ago US sailors developed two acronyms that describe the situation with the federal government and the Silver Spring Transit Center perfectly: (1) SNAFU: Situation Normal--All Fouled Up ("cleaned up" version) and (2) FUBAR: Fouled Up Beyond ALL Recognition" ("cleaned up" version).

Friday, March 28, 2014

License to steal in Virginia

briefly, the facts:
  • From Jan. 2012 through Aug. 2013 we rented a house in Culpeper VA
  • the owners turned the house over to VHS Management Inc. to manage
  • all rent payments and maintenance requests went to VHS Management, Inc.
  • we did not have any contact info for the owners/landlords 
  • the rental agreement was a fill-in-the-blanks Northern Virginia Association of Realtors standard agreement (the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors standard rental agreement is the most one-sided contract that I have ever seen--99% "tenant must...", 1% "landlord must...")
  • the roof leaked for two months onto our kitchen table
  • the 1% of the standard lease that contains landlord responsibilities says: "14. Landlord Maintenance. Except as otherwise noted, the Landlord shall maintain the Premises in good repair and tenantable condition and shall be responsible for repairs not due to the fault or negligence of the Tenant."
  • After one month of the roof leaking onto our kitchen table we filed a "Tenant Assertion and Complaint" with the General District Court in Culpeper VA
  • the judge dismissed our complaint because we "didn't serve the owners". (As stated above, we don't have, nor did we ever have, contact info for the owners.)
  • VHS Management Inc. informed us that our lease would not be renewed and we moved in August 2013
  • In Sept. 2013 we received a check from VHS Management Inc. for refund of our security deposit and propane gas that we bought but did not use. The check was $50. short. We notified VHS Management Inc. that the check was $50. short.
  • Two months later in Nov. 2013, not having received the $50 owed to us, or even a response to our notification to VHS Management Inc. that the refund was $50 short, we filed a complaint with the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation
  • In March 2014 we were informed that VPOR dismissed our complaint.

taken from: 

Last Updated April 1, 2008 

Title 54.1, Chapter 21 

Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation 
9960 Mayland Drive, Suite 400 
Richmond, VA 23233 
(804) 367-8500 


18 VAC 135-20-260. Unworthiness and incompetence. 

Actions constituting unworthy and incompetent conduct include: 

10. Failing to act as a real estate broker or salesperson in such a manner as to safeguard the interests of the public; and

11. Engaging in improper, fraudulent, or dishonest conduct.

Virginia is not a consumer-friendly state. 
Realtors/property managers in Virginia have license to steal with impunity (from seniors and others).

Taken from my email to the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation investigator dated Feb. 21, 2014: 

“The purpose of licensing laws is to protect the public. If the average tenant must spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars trying to get the landlord through the landlord's licensed agent to do what is clearly stated in the lease as their responsibility, then licensing laws have failed the public. Further, if the landlord's licensed agent gyps the tenant out of $50.00, and the licensing board doesn't take action to prevent the landlord's licensed agent from gypping other people in the future, and the tenant's only recourse is to spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars pursuing the matter, then the licensing board has failed to protect the public.”

Friday, February 21, 2014

Silver Spring Transit Center, Montgomery County, MD

The Silver Spring Transit Center is seriously flawed. Even though it hasn't opened yet, the $120+ million SSTC is undergoing millions of dollars in repairs.

In March 2013 Montgomery County, MD posted a report on its website that details the SSTC's serious design, construction and concrete testing and inspection errors and omissions that resulted in, among other flaws, extensive concrete cracking. Since the March 2013 report additional flaws have been discovered, including leaks and 250 under-designed beams. 

According to Montgomery County's website, 53% of the funding for the SSTC is federal funding (administered through the Federal Transit Administration), 11% Maryland Mass Transit Administration and 36 % Montgomery County. Citizens from all 50 states are paying for the over-budget, overdue, severely flawed SSTC. Yet, unilaterally, without public input, Montgomery County is spending millions more making repairs. 

The SSTC is a public-private partnership. The builder/contractor, the engineer/designer and the concrete inspection/testing firm and special quality inspector were chosen by Montgomery County. The SSTC was not bid for construction, as has been standard practice for public works projects for decades.

There are many questions to be aswered with the SSTC, including:

  • Why did Montgomery County choose Foulger-Pratt to build the SSTC, Parsons Brinkerhoff to design it, and Balter Co. to inspect and test concrete and to serve as special quality inspector? Were political contributions part of the selection process? Why wasn't the SSTC bid for construction in the traditional open process?
  • Why weren't the extensive cracking and other design, construction and concrete inspection and testing errors and omissions dealt with earlier, instead of when the SSTC is almost complete? (In addition to a full time, on-site construction management team of Montgomery County employees, periodic inspections during construction were made by other Montgomery County employees.)
  • Why is Montgomery County proceeding with millions of dollars in repairs to the yet-to-be-opened SSTC without public input? Why haven't the Federal Transit Administration and Maryland Mass Transit Administration required Montgomery County to hold open public meetings to explain to the paying public what they are doing and why?
  • Is the SSTC safe? Will the SSTC's design and construction flaws make operation and maintenance of the SSTC exorbitantly expensive? Why hasn't there been an independent (by those not paid for by Montgomery County, MD) investigation of the SSTC's serious flaws? 

For more on the SSTC, search "Silver Spring Transit Center".