Capitol Visitor Center:

Update on Status of Project's Schedule and Cost as of April 17, 2007

GAO-07-755T: Published: Apr 24, 2007. Publicly Released: Apr 24, 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 March 13, 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; observations on the progress of work at the CVC construction site; and discussions with the CVC team (AOC and its major CVC contractors), AOC's Chief Fire Marshal, and representatives from the U.S. Capitol Police.

Since the March 13, 2007, CVC hearing, the CVC team has continued to move the project's construction forward, but AOC has extended the project's scheduled completion date by about 2 months, to June 2008, and further delays are possible. This delay was attributable to problems with activities on the project's critical path--the fire protection system. During the past month, 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. AOC will be able to meet or come close to meeting its new scheduled project completion date only if the CVC team promptly makes significant improvements in its execution of the project and the project's schedule. To date, AOC's implementation of actions identified in its November 2006 action plan has not been completely effective in curtailing additional schedule slippages. Furthermore, ongoing communication and coordination breakdowns between the contractors and AOC's Chief Fire Marshal, as well as the large number of proposed change orders (over 450 as of February 2007), continue to present risks to the project's completion time frames and costs. For example, because of inadequate communication and coordination, some above-ceiling fire protection equipment has to be inspected, even though the ceilings are already in place, risking damage to ceilings and additional work if the inspections reveal deficiencies. Most of the new construction change order proposals that the project continues to generate each month are relatively small compared with the project's total cost; however, a subcontractor has expressed concerns about the cumulative effect of these proposals on subcontractors' cash flows and on the ability of subcontractors to complete their work on schedule. As we reported at the last CVC hearing, we previously estimated that the total cost of the entire CVC project at completion would likely be about $592 million without an allowance for risks and uncertainties, and over $600 million with such an allowance. Because of the uncertainty over the project's expected completion date, we have not updated these estimates. To date, about $538.4 million has been approved for obligation 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 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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