- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Montgomery County officials — scrambling to explain an unplowed, snow-covered rooftop parking lot at Shady Grove Metro Station — said yesterday that responsibility for cleaning the lot belongs to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Commuters who braved the treacherous lot again yesterday continued to complain that about 300 rooftop spaces at the station remain covered in snow, ice and slush three days after a winter storm dropped more than a foot of snow in some parts of the county.

“I could expect this much snow a day or two after, but this many days after a snowfall doesn’t seem reasonable,” said David Bowman, 36, of Gaithersburg.

Many commuters were irritated when they slipped and slid while driving up the icy ramp to the roof lot only to discover that parking lines could not be seen because the snow had not been scraped away.

“I was surprised,” said Laurie Garvey, 32, of Germantown. “I don’t know if they just put the salt down thinking this would take care of it, but this is dangerous.”

In response to inquiries by The Washington Times, Montgomery County officials said they sent snow-removal crews out Monday afternoon to clear the roof. But yesterday, they insisted that snow removal at a Metro station is not a county responsibility.

The $27.4 million, seven-story parking garage was built by the county and formally opened May 5, but the authority for operation and maintenance was transferred to WMATA last week after construction details and operations were confirmed as satisfactory.

Keith Compton, the director of the capital-projects division for the county’s Department of Public Works and Transportation, said his agency, which has an annual budget of about $2 million for snow removal, contacted WMATA officials yesterday to clarify whose responsibility clearing the snow is.

“There are a number of issues that have to be ironed out with who does what when something occurs,” Mr. Compton said. “It would not be uncommon for an issue to be not perfectly clarified. But in this case it was.”

Mr. Compton said the 2,140-space parking garage essentially is still under warranty. For one year, the county is responsible for fixing any infrastructure problems, such as electrical system failures. But, he said, WMATA is responsible for snow removal, which comes under the heading of routine maintenance.

“It was accepted and understood that WMATA would handle that,” Mr. Compton said. During the conversation with WMATA officials yesterday, he said “that understanding was verified.”

In future snowstorms, Mr. Compton said, WMATA officials know they are to handle snow removal at the garage.

On Monday, a WMATA spokeswoman referred questions to Montgomery officials, saying it was the county’s responsibility to keep the garage clear.

David Weaver, a spokesman for County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, said the lingering presence of the snow and ice did not conflict with Mr. Duncan’s and the county’s aggressive efforts to encourage residents to use mass transit, especially in bad weather.

“If this were part of a pattern, there would be a conflict, but this was a mistake,” Mr. Weaver said. “It is clear that this piece of property, which just changed hands to WMATA, slipped through the cracks.”

The Times reported Monday that Montgomery County will require employers of 50 or more workers to meet a Jan. 1 deadline to submit plans describing how they will encourage employees to use public transit, telecommute, walk to work or carpool more often. The county ordinance, which took effect on March 6, allows employers to be fined up to $75 per day if they fail to submit the “traffic-mitigation plans” or if they submit inadequate plans.

A WMATA spokeswoman and a Montgomery County spokeswoman each said Monday they had received no complaints about conditions on the roof of the garage.

Michael McCabe, 66, of Gaithersburg, called conditions “intolerable.” He said he thought of sending an e-mail, but he didn’t know to whom to send it.

Judith Person contributed to this report.

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