WASHINGTON – Construction of the Capitol Visitor Center remains behind schedule,the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported Tuesday.
Only three of 11 construction milestones were completed last month,and none was finished on time,the GAO reported to a Senate subcommittee.
In a written statement,the GAO said the center may be completed by mid-2007,but the agency will issue an update after further evaluation. The center,which will provide exhibit space,office space and waiting and screening areas for tourists,who now line up outside the Capitol,is several years behind schedule.
The GAO statement estimates that a previous projected completion date of December 2006 will be hard to achieve unless the Architect of the Capitol's office “and its contractors take extraordinary action or change the project's scope,which could result in additional costs to the government.”
Although the GAO confirmed that the architect's office has made progress in some areas since the last hearing Sept. 15,work continues to be late in such area as utility tunnel construction and stone installation.
Alan Hantman,architect of the Capitol,said that the project is moving forward in many forms. He said workers are providing excellent work,despite the delays.
Hantman said the delays are related to a shortage of stonemasons and stone
The House and Senate expansion space is estimated to be completed in February 2007,but there is still no certainty about the schedules,as neither Hantman's office nor its construction management contractor has fully evaluated their activities,as recommended in the last hearing,according to the GAO statement.
“I would like to urge you to leave the schedule in place because I think it is critical,” said Sen. Wayne Allard,R-Colo.,who chaired the Appropriations Committee legislative branch subcommittee hearing.
The GAO statement said the agency will wait until the project schedule is revised and evaluated to update the total cost,most recently estimated at between $525.6 million and $559 million,double the original projection.
Congress has approved $527.9 million so far and could add another $7.8 million in construction or operating money if necessary,but GAO official Bernard Ungar said there has been no request for it yet.