Capitol Visitor Center:

Update on Status of Project's Schedule and Cost as of September 24, 2008

GAO-08-1172T: Published: Sep 24, 2008. Publicly Released: Sep 24, 2008.

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The purpose of this testimony is to assist the Subcommittee 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 July 8, 2008, and (2) the project's expected cost at completion and funding status.

Since the July 8, 2008, CVC hearing, the project has passed a significant milestone--the fire marshal's issuance of a temporary certificate of occupancy--and although issues in certain CVC and expansion space work remain, AOC expects to have the project ready for opening on December 2, 2008, as scheduled. According to AOC's construction management contractor, in dollar terms, the overall CVC project remains 99 percent complete. Some risks to the project's schedule remain in completing work needed to start up and open the building as planned. In addition, many punch list items remain to be completed, and a number of proposed change orders have to be resolved. At this time, AOC does not expect the punch list items or the proposed change orders to affect the project's opening date. Since the last hearing, the fire marshal has substantially completed fire alarm acceptance testing. While the fire marshal has issued a temporary certificate of occupancy, incomplete work in several areas still has the potential to limit preparations for the project's planned opening or make portions of the facility unusable at the opening. The CVC team has continued to gradually reduce the number of punch list items, which we have identified as a concern at the last several hearings. According to AOC, the number of punch list items has been reduced from over 15,000 to under 3,000. Each month, the CVC team continues to identify proposed change orders. AOC and its contractors have continued to work together to reduce the number of open (outstanding) proposed change orders, and the number of open orders has declined since our last statement. AOC's current estimate of the cost to complete the CVC project's construction, first reported in September 2007, remains about $621 million. We believe this estimate is realistic and contains a sufficient allowance for contingencies, provided there are no unexpected delays. To date, about $583.3 million has been approved for CVC construction, and of the amounts approved for operations, AOC includes $1.1 million (net of certain construction items) in its total estimated cost to complete. In addition, AOC has $2.4 million more in fiscal year 2008 CVC appropriations that it plans to use for construction after it obtains congressional approval to obligate these funds.6 Furthermore, AOC has requested $31.1 million in fiscal year 2009 funds for CVC construction; however, in its current cost-to-complete estimate, AOC indicates it may need an additional $3 million in fiscal year 2009 funds to finish the project. According to AOC, if necessary, the additional $3 million could be reprogrammed.

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