Capitol Visitor Center:
Update on Status of Projects's Schedule and Cost As of May 24, 2006
GAO-06-803T: Published: May 24, 2006. Publicly Released: May 24, 2006.
This testimony focuses on the Architect of the Capitol's progress in achieving selected project milestones and in managing the Capitol Visit Center project's schedule since Congress's April 27, 2006, hearing on the project. As part of this discussion, we will address a number of key challenges and risks that continue to face the project, as well as actions AOC has taken or plans to take to address these risks. In addition, we will discuss the status of the project's costs and funding.
Since Congress's April 27 CVC hearing, the CVC team has continued to move the project's construction forward, and AOC is still proposing the same opening dates--April 2007 for the base CVC project and May 2007 for the House and Senate expansion spaces--but we continue to believe, as we said at the March and April hearings, that the proposed opening dates do not allow enough time to complete several critical activities and to address problems, challenges, risks, and uncertainties. Since the April 27 hearing, the installation of critical interior wall and floor stone has continued, together with other interior and exterior construction work, and the sequence 2 contractor has further developed plans to prevent trade stacking during finish work. Although the sequence 2 contractor exceeded its installation target for interior wall stone during the last 4 weeks, the pace of floor stone installation remained far below the targeted pace; the dates for completing the construction of the overall base project and expansion spaces were extended; and several activities fell behind schedule--not enough to affect the overall completion dates based on the project schedule, but increasing the potential for future delays. In addition, the sequence 2 contractor met only one of the nine milestones being tracked for this hearing, and this contractor's monthly billings continue to indicate that construction work is not likely to be completed on schedule as AOC anticipated. The CVC's fire protection system has not yet been approved; critical building systems still have to be commissioned and tested; and although the project's overall design is essentially complete, certain design or work scope elements are still incomplete or are being clarified or refined. If the CVC team is successful in addressing these issues, we believe that the base CVC project can still possibly be opened to the public with a temporary cap on visitor occupancy in May 2007 and that the expansion spaces can likely be opened for occupancy beginning in mid-August to early September 2007. AOC may be able to reduce some of the time scheduled for the expansion spaces if it implements a phased opening plan and is able to perform acceptance testing of the CVC and the expansion spaces concurrently rather than sequentially--possibilities AOC is continuing to explore. However, the delays that have occurred since Congress's last CVC hearing compound the concern we previously expressed that AOC will be challenged to meet even the later dates we are projecting because of the problems, challenges, risks, and uncertainties facing the project. Accordingly, we plan to reassess the project's schedule again this summer. As we reported at Congress's March 15 and April 27 CVC hearings, we estimate that the total cost to complete the entire CVC project is about $556 million without an allowance for risks and uncertainties and $584 million with such an allowance. To date, about $530 million has been provided for CVC construction. We continue to estimate that AOC will need about $25.6 million more in CVC construction funds to complete the entire CVC project. This estimate does not allow for risks and uncertainties and takes into account funding that AOC plans to use from existing appropriations. In addition, as we indicated during the March 15 hearing, AOC preliminarily expects to need about $950,000 in fiscal year 2007 AOC general administration appropriations that Congress has not yet provided. These funds are needed to pay for contractual support necessary to complete acceptance testing of the facility's fire protection system in time to meet the project's schedule. AOC plans to determine if it can reduce the amount needed for this contractual support; we will keep Congress apprised of this situation.