The Status and Problems in Constructing the National Visitor Center

PSAD-77-93: Published: Apr 4, 1977. Publicly Released: Apr 4, 1977.

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The problems encountered during the development and construction of the National Visitor Center in Union Station in Washington, D.C. were reviewed.

The project evolved from a plan for the Department of the Interior to lease the privately developed Center from the owners of Union Station. The complex financial and management arrangement did not adequately protect the government. Congress was not informed of costly changes in plans and increased costs in other areas until too late to consider alternatives. The Station owners contracted with a construction company that became its own subcontractor--a questionable procedure. Costs to date are some $45 million, of which some $28 million is the government's share for a partially completed facility. The government had not planned to pay for construction, only for rental. To complete it, estimated costs range from $115 to $180 million. The Department of Transportation is interested in assuming Interior's lease on the structure.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: The agency designated for managing the Center should: (1) determine whether the lease could be renegotiated with a view towards using valuable air rights; and (2) develop a utilization plan to use the upper and lower levels of the station. It should be decided whether to finish only the incompleted structure or build the entire project to conform with the approved design. Before authorizing any additional construction, the final project design and costs, as well as the agency responsible for completing the project should be determined. If construction is to continue, responsibility should go to an agency familiar with such projects, such as General Services Administration or Corps of Engineers. This agency should submit periodic status reports to Congress and use fixed price contracts to avoid cost overruns.


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