Durbin encounters major CVC bottleneck

Litigation over stone delivery and the installation of safety systems continues to hamper progress on the long-delayed and much-disputed Capitol Visitor Center (CVC), the official overseeing the project said yesterday.

Architect of the Capitol (AoC) Alan Hantman told Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), ranking member of the Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee, during a tour of the construction site that stone delivery had been delayed by a legal dispute between Boatman and Magnani, the company installing the stone, and the Pennsylvania quarry supplying it.

A hearing between Boatman and Magnani and the quarry is scheduled for next week, Hantman said, adding that the dispute is “a major bottleneck.”

The safety systems are a headache for the AoC because of their complexity and the fact that security is such a high concern, he said.

“We are the beta-test sight,” Hantman told Durbin. “Nothing has been done like this before. Our engineers have come up with a solution, but installation and testing is a complex situation.”

Durbin expressed frustration that Hantman and CVC officials had not planned for the laborious installation process.

“The quarry [issues] I can understand,” he said, but he added that delays from a lack of foresight are less acceptable.

Hantman said that his office and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) were still updating their calculation of the cost to complete the project and of the projected opening date. Both issues will be addressed at the hearing before the subcommittee scheduled for tomorrow, he said.

According to the GAO’s Nov. 16 testimony, it will take a minimum of $542.9 million to complete the 580,000-square-foot visitors center. That is midway between previous estimates of $525.6 million and $559 million.

The AoC’s independent cost-consultant firm, McDonough, Bolyard and Peck, estimated in November that the cost to complete would be $481.9 million. The AoC has previously maintained the CVC will open in December 2006, while the GAO has said spring 2007 is more realistic.

In addition to the delays associated with stone and safety systems, the AoC has also fallen behind in hiring an executive director for the facility.

“We are looking forward to the candidates’ being reviewed for that position in December and [to] having made a selection in January,” Hantman testified Nov. 16. No one has yet been chosen for the post.

“The candidates were involved in a very thorough and inclusive interview process that involved coordinating their schedules to visit the CVC to see the project firsthand,” CVC spokesman Tom Fontana said.

When asked whether the director will be selected in the next few months, Hantman replied, “I sure hope so.”