Capitol Visitor Center:

Status of Schedule, Fire Protection, Cost, and Related Issues

GAO-06-180T: Published: Oct 18, 2005. Publicly Released: Oct 18, 2005.

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Mark L. Goldstein
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GAO testified before Congress on the progress on the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) project. Our remarks will focus on (1) the Architect of the Capitol's (AOC) progress in managing the project's schedule since Congress's September 15 hearing on the project, (2) issues associated with the CVC's fire protection system, and (3) the project's costs and funding. Our ability to fully address these issues is limited by two important factors. First, AOC's sequence 2 construction contractor's--Manhattan Construction Company--September 2005 schedule reflects a number of significant changes, and AOC has not yet had the opportunity to fully evaluate these changes. Second, neither AOC nor its construction management contractor--Gilbane Building Company--has completed the evaluation of elements of the project schedule that we recommended during Congress's September 15 hearing. Thus, while we will discuss the schedule's status, we will not be able to provide specific estimated completion dates until AOC and its construction management contractor complete their assessments and we have the opportunity to evaluate them. Similarly, while we will discuss the status of the project's costs and funding, we will wait until the project schedule is fully reviewed and stabilized and we have had an opportunity to evaluate AOC's consultant's, McDonough Bolyard Peck (MBP), cost-estimation work before we comprehensively update our November 2004 estimate of the cost to complete the project.

AOC and its construction contractors have made progress in managing the schedule and accomplishing work since Congress's September 15 CVC hearing, but additional delays have been encountered. Work on all interior levels of the CVC, various sections of the House and Senate expansion spaces, the plaza, and the utility tunnel has continued. However, additional delays have occurred in a number of areas. For example, despite an increase in the number of stone masons working on the project in September, the project lost about 2 weeks on interior stone work installation and a similar amount of time on the utility tunnel. The design of the CVC's fire protection system has undergone a number of changes--largely to reconcile conflicts between security and life and fire safety requirements--and in a number of instances has been the focus of considerable debate among stakeholders (e.g. CVC project team members, AOC's Chief Fire Marshal and AOC fire protection engineers, and USCP representatives). Changes to the system's design and scope have resulted in about $900,000 in cost increases so far and could result in additional increased costs of about $4.4 million based on anticipated changes as of September 30, 2005. The bulk of the potential $5.3 million cost increase stems from two factors--a change in the manner smoke will be kept from egress stairwells that was requested by AOC's Chief Fire Marshal and agreed to by the stakeholders and which resolves a conflict between security and life and fire safety requirements, and a disagreement between AOC and a contractor over contract requirements for certain detection devices. The increased cost figure could change significantly, however, because some CVC project team members believe that the estimated costs for these changes are too high, costs for all proposed or anticipated changes have not yet been fully evaluated, and negotiations relative to the estimated $4.4 million in anticipated changes have not been completed. We have discussed the costs associated with the stairwell change with AOC, and it has agreed to fully evaluate the situation before it executes any additional contract modifications for this change. Based on our discussions with the CVC project team, AOC's Chief Fire Marshal, and USCP representatives, it appears that the fire protection system design is now essentially complete and agreed to by all the stakeholders. Finally, coordination problems have existed between the CVC project team and AOC's Chief Fire Marshall in arranging for inspections of completed work, but steps are being taken to resolve the problems. We have not updated our interim estimate of a cost of between $525.6 million and about $559 million to complete the project, which we reported at Congress's September 15 CVC hearing, because AOC's consultant just completed its updated cost estimate and we have not yet had the opportunity to evaluate it, and because the project schedule has not yet stabilized. As soon as we evaluate MBP's report and the project schedule stabilizes, we will begin our work to reassess the reasonableness of project completion dates and comprehensively update our cost-tocomplete estimate. No additional funding beyond the $527.9 million for CVC construction and the $7.8 million that remained available for CVC operations or construction that we reported at Congerss's last CVC hearing has been provided for the CVC.

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