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Metro OIG Takes Over Silver Line Case

Friday, September 28, 2018

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The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Office of the Inspector General announced last week it will take over the investigation into quality-control issues on the $2.8 billion Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project Phase 2, commonly known as the Silver Line extension.

Previously, the WMATA had announced an independent review of issues on the project after a whistleblower lawsuit alleging fraudulent QC reports on concrete panels supplied by a subcontractor came to light in May. The OIG’s probe will supersede that investigation, according to Metro Inspector General Geoffrey Cherrington.

The OIG investigation will look specifically at the quality of the concrete used, as well as general practices on the project. It will also include “a study of potential future costs associated with increased maintenance or remedies that may be necessary as a result of construction quality issues,” according to the office.

A reported 115 of the concrete panels in question had to be replaced after showing early signs of deterioration; the remainder—nearly 1,400—will be treated with a silane sealer every 10 years for the duration of the structures’ existence, estimated at 100 years.

Fraud Allegations, Guilty Plea

The Silver Line project, being built by design-build contractor Capital Rail Constructors, was rocked by reports that employees of subcontractor Universal Concrete Products, of Stowe, Pennsylvania, falsified concrete test reports, certifying panels that were not made to specification. Andrew Nolan, who served as QC manager at the firm and allegedly oversaw the cooking of the books, pleaded guilty in August to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and agreed to cooperate with investigators.

The QC team at UCP allegedly changed values on reports indicating the air and water content of the concrete mixtures, and sourced aggregate from a different quarry than it had originally proposed, potentially leaving the door open to the alkali-silica reaction, in which aggregate reacts with cement paste, often creating cracking and spalling.

The whistleblower lawsuit, filed in 2016 by former UCP quality-control employee Nathan Davidheiser, was joined this year by the federal government and commonwealth of Virginia. In addition to the allegations leveled against Nolan, the suit states that company executives ignored internal complaints about the fraudulent practice and in some cases demoted or even terminated employees who attempted to put a stop to the false reports.

UCP, according to NBC Washington, is still supplying concrete panels for the project. The company's conctract with Capital Rail Constructors was worth about $6.1 million.


Tagged categories: alkali-silica reaction (ASR); concrete; Criminal acts; Ethics; Fraud; Public Transit; Quality control

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