CVC Opening Pushed Back

Posted January 26, 2004 at 2:16pm

A recently released timeline reveals that the public will not have access to the Capitol Visitor Center until spring 2006, almost a half-year later than Architect of the Capitol Alan Hantman had indicated just six months ago.

A construction schedule on the AOC’s Web site lists “final completion/open to the public” scheduled for spring 2006. The House and Senate expansion space is set to be completed that summer.

CVC spokesman Tom Fontana emphasized, however, that the visitor center would still support the January 2005 presidential inauguration as planned. The roof plate is expected to be completed by that time and will form the ground of the remodeled East Front Plaza, which will host media vans, motorcades and the president’s Marine One helicopter for the inauguration.

Excavation and other construction activities for the 580,000-square-foot center were considerably slowed last year by the record number of rainy days. Project managers were able to make up some of that lost time but not all of it.

Just last July, Hantman told the House Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch that “we fully expect [the construction] will culminate in December 2005 when the CVC will open its doors to the public.”

“Substantial completion,” when the contractor hands over the proverbial keys to Congress, is still set for fall 2005, a date that has remained unchanged for at least a year. Last February, Fontana defined that stage as when Congress “should be able to operate the facility. We put a final completion date after that to just give us a little bit of a buffer.”

It’s that buffer that has gotten longer.

The completion date for the CVC has been pushed back multiple times due to a number of factors, many of which were out of project managers’ control, such as inadequate funding and expansion of the project’s scope. When Congressional leaders officially broke ground in 2000, the expectation was the center would be open by the January 2005 inauguration. That date was later changed to hold a partial opening in time to support the inauguration and a full opening later that year.

House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio), whose committee oversees the project, said he has often felt the completion dates were overly optimistic.

“I thought sometimes the timeframe was ambitious,” Ney said. “I was hoping for 2005, now it’s 2006. I am not in a panic at this point in time.”