Capitol Visitor Center:

Update on Status of Project's Schedule and Cost as of June 27, 2007

GAO-07-897T: Published: Jun 27, 2007. Publicly Released: Jun 27, 2007.

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The purpose of this testimony is to assist the Committees in monitoring progress on the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) project. This testimony will focus on (1) the Architect of the Capitol's (AOC) construction progress since the last CVC hearing on April 24, 2007; and (2) the project's expected cost at completion and funding status. GAO'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 stonework. In addition, we reviewed the contract modifications made to date.

Since the April 24, 2007, CVC hearing, the project's construction has progressed, and AOC is still projecting a June 27, 2008, completion date. Although the CVC team has avoided further delays in the project's critical path (i.e., the work on the fire alarm system), activities on most of the project's near-critical paths have fallen behind schedule, and further delays are possible. During the past 2 months, the CVC team has made progress on the project's heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, interior wall stone and ceiling installation, and other interior and exterior construction work. However, problems have occurred in such near-critical activities as the ceiling close-ins in the upper level security and orientation lobbies and elements of the House and Senate expansion spaces, and a number of risks to the project's schedule remain. These include potential problems in completing the installation, integration, operation, and testing of complex, major building systems, including the fire alarm, security, and HVAC systems. For example, the subcontractor that is installing the fire alarm system told AOC in April that the installation may not proceed as scheduled because of cash flow issues and delays in other subcontractors' work. The subcontractor's cash flow issues are, in turn, related to another risk to the project's schedule--unsettled change order requests. Finally, a new risk emerged this month, when problems with the HVAC automated control system delayed the completion of efforts to test and balance of the HVAC units. Given these and other risks to the project's schedule, we believe that AOC will be able to meet or come close to meeting its scheduled construction completion date only if the CVC team promptly makes significant improvements in its execution of the project and the project's schedule. At the November 15, 2006, CVC hearing, we reported 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. Because the project's expected completion date remains uncertain, we have not updated these estimates. To date, about $538.4 million has been approved for CVC construction, including about $7.4 million in fiscal year 2007 appropriations. For fiscal year 2007, AOC has also received an additional appropriation of $36.4 million for the CVC project, which AOC has not yet received approval to obligate. AOC has indicated that of this amount, approximately $23.8 million will be used for construction and $12.6 will be used for 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 claims.

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