Capitol Visitor Center:

Update on Schedule and Cost

GAO-06-251T: Published: Nov 16, 2005. Publicly Released: Nov 16, 2005.

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This testimony discusses the progress on the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) project. Specifically, this testimony discusses (1) the status of the project schedule since Congress's October 18, 2005, hearing on the project, (2) the project's costs and funding, and (3) worker safety issues. We will discuss the progress made and problems encountered in completing scheduled construction work and in continuing to develop the project schedule, as we indicated during Congress's October 18 hearing; however, we will not be able to estimate specific completion dates until the project schedule is stable and the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) and its construction management contractor--Gilbane Building Company--have completed their assessments of the schedule and we have had an opportunity to evaluate them. Also, we will update the information we previously provided on the project's costs and funding, using readily available data, but we will wait until the project schedule is stable and has been fully reviewed before we comprehensively update our November 2004 estimate of the cost to complete the project and update the provision in our estimate for risks and uncertainties facing the project.

Construction work in several areas has moved forward since Congress's October 18 CVC hearing, but additional delays have occurred, and AOC's construction management contractor has identified several concerns with the schedule that raise questions about its proposed mid-December 2006 opening of the base CVC project to the public. AOC and its construction management contractor expect to resolve outstanding scheduling concerns and issues by the end of this year. When AOC and its construction management contractor have prepared what they consider to be a reasonably stable project schedule, we will reevaluate the schedule and inform Congress of our results. In the interim, to help ensure that Congress has better information for making CVC-related decisions, we are recommending that AOC (1) implement the recommendations for obtaining a more reliable project schedule contained in its construction management contractor's November 2005 report, which are consistent with our previous recommendations on schedule management, and (2) reassess its proposed December 2006 date for opening the CVC to the public when it has a more reliable construction schedule. Our preliminary work indicates that the entire CVC project is likely, at a minimum, to cost $542.9 million. This preliminary estimate falls about midway between our September 15, 2005, interim estimate of $525.6 million, which did not provide for risks and uncertainties, and our November 2004 estimate of about $559 million, which did provide for risks and uncertainties. Specifically, this current $542.9 preliminary estimate is about $17.3 million more than the September 15 interim estimate and about $16.1 million less than the November 2004 estimate. The current $542.9 million preliminary estimate does not provide for risks and uncertainties or for additional payments to contractors to cover the costs of certain delays and other contingencies. Even without providing for risks and uncertainties, though, we have increased our cost estimate since September 15 because additional and more expensive changes to the project have been identified; we have increased our allowance for contingencies; and we have added funding for AOC and contractor staff that we believe are likely to be working on the project through the spring of 2007. Our preliminary estimate substantially exceeds MBP's November 2005 updated estimate of $481.9 million, largely because MBP's estimate does not cover a number of project components and does not, in our view, provide adequately for contingencies. According to our analysis of CVC data, worker safety rates have improved substantially this year, although the lost-time rate remains above industry norms. The injury and illness rate for the first 10 months of 2005 declined 52 percent from the rate for 2004, putting the CVC site's rate 3 percent below the average for comparable construction sites. The lost-time rate decreased 62 percent during the same period, but the CVC site's rate is still 29 percent higher than the average rate for comparable construction sites. AOC and its contractors have taken a number of actions during 2005 to improve safety performance on the project, such as conducting training to elevate safety awareness and placing safety posters around the worksite. In addition, senior managers are meeting periodically to develop strategies to improve safety. Poor housekeeping, however, has been an ongoing issue at the site, and the sequence 2 contractor has recently taken actions to address this issue.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To help ensure that Congress receives a more reliable estimate of the project's completion date in order to plan for the Capitol Visitor Center's (CVC) opening to the public and make more informed decisions about the Architect of the Capitol's funding needs for CVC construction and operations, the Architect of the Capitol should implement the recommendations (which are consistent with our prior recommendations on schedule management) made by its construction management contractor in its November 9 report on its schedule evaluation.

    Agency Affected: Architect of the Capitol

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: There were four major recommendations addressed in the November 2005 CVC testimony as recommended by the construction manager's November 9, 2005 report. The first two recommendations, as noted on page 9 of the CVC testimony, were partially completed. However, the second two recommendations were not completed.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that Congress receives a more reliable estimate of the project's completion date in order to plan for the Capitol Visitor Center's (CVC) opening to the public and make more informed decisions about the Architect of the Capitol's funding needs for CVC construction and operations, the Architect of the Capitol should reassess its proposal to open the CVC in mid-December 2006 when it is confident that it has a project schedule that reflects realistic durations, enhanced logic, the resolution of concerns expressed by the Fire Marshal Division, and the impact of delays and contract changes.

    Agency Affected: Architect of the Capitol

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AOC has since revised it's expected completion date several times. It last updated the completion date on November 15, 2006 at the Senate hearing. At this time AOC stated it expected the CVC to complete in late 2007. GAO is currently predicting completion in early 2008.

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