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CVC Watch

Architect of the Capitol officials won’t get the chance to announce what is expected to be another three-month delay in the Capitol Visitor Center project as today’s progress hearing has been postponed until next week.

But the most recent schedule predictions from Gilbane, the AOC’s construction management company, indicate that the earliest a grand opening could take place for the long-awaited facility being built beneath the Capitol’s East Front would be Sept. 25, 2008, less than two months before the 2008 elections.

That means that as Members and staffers leave Capitol Hill for their respective conventions in late August and early September 2008, the AOC will be putting the final touches on a project that ceremonially broke ground in the late stages of the 2000 campaign.

According to Gilbane’s latest schedule, the CVC’s intricate and complex fire alarm system now is expected to be fully tested and commissioned by July 2, 2008, at which time a temporary certificate of occupancy could be issued for the 580,000-square-foot facility. Between then and the end of September, additional work, such as installing historic artifacts and documents in the Exhibit Hall, would take place while CVC staff is trained in the new facility, which includes a new system for managing tours, two gift shops and a 600-seat cafeteria.

The project, which the Government Accountability Office predicts will cost more than $600 million, today is more than 91 percent complete, according to recent testimony by acting Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers.

The most recent construction highlights include the completed installation of two large escalators in the CVC’s “transition zone” — the access point from the facility into the Capitol itself.

Meanwhile, workers in the Exhibit Hall have installed all the artifact and document cases in the “Wall of Aspirations,” the main feature that runs the length of the long gallery area. Those cases currently are being pressure tested to ensure they can safely protect exhibits, many of which will be provided by the Library of Congress.

And as stone masons work to set the last of what will be more than 3 acres of floor stone throughout the facility, AOC officials are anticipating the arrival next week of the 12-foot-tall bronze doors for the public entrance to the new facility.

Outside the CVC, crews are working to install the last of the historic Olmsted lanterns on the pedestrian walkway that sits atop the new facility.

Next week’s CVC progress hearing is scheduled to be a joint session in which members of the House Administration Committee will sit alongside members of the Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch for the first time in a joint hearing on the new facility. The House Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch, under Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), took over holding monthly progress hearings after the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch held 15 such hearings during the 109th Congress. A House Administration spokeswoman said in a release that the committee was invited to participate in the ongoing Appropriations hearings at the request of House leadership.

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