By Jackie Kucinich - 11/17/05 12:00 AM EST
With construction of the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) at least 80 calendar days behind schedule, contractors would have to work nine days a week for the next 10 months straight to complete the project on time, according to Government Accountability Office (GAO) testimony to a key Senate appropriator yesterday.
The Architect of the Capitol (AoC) has insisted in recent months that the base project of the visitors center would be completed by September 2006 and that the CVC would be open to the public by December 2006, an assertion the GAO and its construction-management contractor dispute.
During the monthly meeting of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, GAO officials said the CVC could continue to fall behind schedule because of problems the AoC has experienced with its stone provider.
“The most significant issue since last month’s hearing is the continued lack of adequate stone delivery,” Architect of the Capitol Alan Hantman testified yesterday. “In October we received only two truckloads of stone — not the 11 trucks that were scheduled for delivery.”
Hantman told the subcommittee that the stone installer, Boatman and Magnani, had filed a motion in a Pennsylvania federal district court to seek relief from a previous injunction and an expedited hearing. Stonework has been consistently delayed because of a continuing legal battle between two companies responsible for providing the stone.
“While we are not a party to this litigation, nor subject to the injunction, our interests are certainly affected by it,” Hantman said.
He added the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania filed a statement of interest on behalf of the AoC as a friend of the court to express the need for the hearing. The hearing is scheduled for Dec. 1 for all pending motions.
During yesterday’s hearing, GAO officials reported the AoC had completed eight out of 16 scheduled activities for last month, and only three on time. The utility tunnel and stonework both experienced lost time equivalent to about 10 days of work during 21 workdays last month.
For the second time, the CVC’s construction-management contractor from Gilbane Building Co. testified that the scheduled opening date of December 2006 was unrealistic and that the completion date of the base project would be closer to the GAO’s estimate of early to mid-2007 “unless AoC and its contractors take extraordinary action or change the project’s scope, which would increase the government’s costs,” the GAO said in its report.
In his comments to the subcommittee, Marvin Shenkler, a representative from Gilbane, added that the project would take at least $15 million more to complete.
The AoC’s independent cost-consultant firm, McDonough, Bolyard and Peck, estimated this month that the current cost to complete the CVC would amount to $481.9 million, a $5 million increase from last year’s estimate. But Hantman attributed the increase to the “extension of the AoC and … construction-management staff for three months” for new and projected change orders.
“My review of the report that was done by [McDonough, Bolyard and Peck revealed that] it did not reflect a number of contingencies that we need to consider,” Shenkler said.
CVC Project Executive Bob Hixon said: “There were a number of issues on [Shenkler’s] list that we did not feel needed to be adjusted.”
Terrell Dorn, the GAO’s assistant director of physical infrastructure issues, testified that it would take a minimum of $542.9 million to complete the 580,000-square-foot visitors center, which falls midway between previous estimates of $525.6 million to $559 million. However, the GAO noted in its report that the new number did not provide for costs incurred because of uncertainties or additional payments to contractors as a result of delays.
When asked whether the upper range of the previous estimated cost would change as a result of the increase, Legislative Branch Subcommittee Chairman Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) replied that when the AoC submits a comprehensive schedule and completion date, the AoC will re-estimate the cost.
“My suspicion is it is going to creep up,” Dorn said.
Hantman testified that although the funding was tight, the AoC still believed it could complete the project with existing appropriated funds.
“Nevertheless, we concur with GAO that potential risks do exist and that additional funds may be necessary to complete the project should these risks turn into reality,” Hantman testified, “if completion occurs after December 2006 or if significant additional change orders are required.”
The GAO also identified a number of risks regarding the testing and inspecting of the fire-protection system.
Worker safety on the CVC site had improved considerably, according to the GAO.
Dorn said the injury and illness rates for the site had declined 52 percent this year from the 2004 rate, 3 percent below comparable construction sites. The lost time rate decreased 62 percent in 2005 but remained 29 percent higher than the average rate.