Capitol Visitor Center:

Update on Status of Project's Schedule and Cost as of March 13, 2007

GAO-07-601T: Published: Mar 13, 2007. Publicly Released: Mar 13, 2007.

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We appreciate the opportunity to assist the Subcommittee in monitoring progress on the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) project. GAO's remarks will focus on (1) the Architect of the Capitol's (AOC) construction progress since the last CVC hearing on February 16, 2007; and (2) the project's expected cost at completion and funding status. Today's remarks are based on our review of schedules and financial reports for the CVC project and related records maintained by AOC and its construction management contractor, Gilbane Building Company; our observations on the progress of work at the CVC construction site; and our discussions with the CVC team (AOC and its major CVC contractors), AOC's Chief Fire Marshal, and representatives from the U.S. Capitol Police. We also reviewed AOC's construction management contractor's periodic schedule assessments, potential change order log, and weekly reports on the progress of interior wall and floor stone installation. In addition, we reviewed the contract modifications made to date. At the last CVC hearing, we reported that our assessment of the project's schedule and expected cost at completion was still somewhat constrained because the CVC team was analyzing the impact on the project's schedule and cost of recently identified changes required for certain components of the fire protection and security systems. The impact of these changes on the project is still not fully known. Therefore, we could not thoroughly assess the project's schedule or estimated cost at completion and are basing our views on the information available as of March 6, 2007, recognizing our views could change as more information on the impact of these changes becomes available.

Since the February 16, 2007, CVC hearing, the CVC team has continued to move the project's construction forward, but work in a number of important areas has been delayed. According to AOC's construction management contractor, there were no delays in the critical path last month, but all of the project's 17 near-critical paths lost time, including 8 paths that lost a month or more. The CVC team has made progress on the project's heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system; interior floor stone and ceiling installation; and other interior and exterior construction work. As noted at the last hearing, problems and uncertainty associated with the project's most critical activity--the fire protection system--are leading AOC to re-examine the project's schedule. AOC is considering adding time for further pretesting of major building systems, risks and uncertainties, and operations preparation. According to AOC, it anticipates that this additional time would likely move the dates for completing the CVC's construction to the spring of 2008 and for opening the CVC to the public to the summer of 2008. AOC expects to have more specific dates when it completes its schedule reassessment. In addition, problems with other important activities, including work on the East Front and the exhibit gallery, have not yet affected the project's completion date, but could do so in the future. The project also continues to face risks and uncertainties that could affect its progress, especially risks associated with the final testing of its major building systems, which is not scheduled to begin until July 2007, according to the project's most recent schedule, dated January 2007. As we reported at the February CVC hearing, we roughly estimate that the total cost of the entire CVC project at completion is likely to be about $592 million without an allowance for risks and uncertainties and over $600 million with such an allowance. We have not updated our estimate of the project's cost at completion with an allowance for risks and uncertainties. To date, about $538.4 million has been approved for CVC construction, including about $7.4 million in fiscal year 2007 appropriations. In fiscal year 2007, AOC has received an additional appropriated amount of $36.4 million for the CVC project, which AOC has not yet received approval to obligate. AOC has not indicated how much of the additional money is needed for construction or operations. AOC has also requested $20 million in fiscal year 2008 CVC construction appropriations to cover remaining costs, and we estimate that AOC may need further appropriations in future fiscal years for construction changes and claims.

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