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CVC Opening Pushed Back to Summer 2008

The acting Architect of the Capitol has abandoned any hope of completing the Capitol Visitor Center in 2007 and said this morning that a summer 2008 opening date is more likely.

Stephen Ayers, who is serving as former AOC Alan Hantman’s replacement until a permanent successor is appointed, told Members of the House Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch that after “evaluating past contractor performance, schedules and the nature of issues that remain,” his agency has determined that a certificate of occupancy for the new underground facility could not be obtained until sometime next spring. And then an additional two or three months would be required to make the facility ready to receive visitors.

The announcement marks the latest in a long history of missed and revised deadlines for a project that was once expected to be open in time for the 2005 presidential inauguration.

And though the AOC has not said it would require additional money to complete the project beyond what it has already requested, it is already facing a price tag in excess of $600 million, according to the Government Accountability Office, which is helping Congress monitor the CVC. While the AOC has requested $20 million in construction funding, GAO officials said today the facility likely would require an additional $15 million in the next fiscal year to complete the project.

After 15 CVC progress hearings before the Senate during the 109th Congress — only the Senate had an Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch in 2005-06 — this morning’s hearing marked a reassertion of oversight on the CVC by the House of Representatives. Throughout the hearing several members, including Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) asked the AOC to be more realistic than it has been in the past in coming up with milestones, budget projections and a completion deadline.

“This hearing makes one thing very clear to me — everyone involved in this project must be held to a higher standard of accountability, and on a regular basis,” Wasserman Schultz said. “We’re going to make sure you give us regular information. We’re not just going to bring you before us, ask you questions and send you on your way.”

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