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West Front to Get a Coat of Fresh Paint This Year

Ever wonder what a million-dollar paint job looks like?

The Capitol’s West Front is scheduled for a late-2007 touch-up that, according to a solicitation notice released last week by the Architect of the Capitol’s office, is expected to cost somewhere from $500,000 to $1 million.

It’s a contract that could be especially lucrative for whatever company ends up being selected by Congress because the solicitation includes an option for the AOC to add additional painting work on the Capitol’s North and South elevations as well as the East Front.

And while there’s clearly a great deal of money to be made on those projects, the real treasure chest for a painting contractor eyeing potential jobs at the Capitol may not lie in the structure’s four walls but on its roof.

Since the late 1990s, Congress has planned a major Capitol Dome preservation project to follow up on renovation efforts last undertaken in 1959 and 1960. The first phase of the latest project, which included repairs, stripping lead-based paint and repainting the interior of the Dome, was completed during the 107th Congress.

But the second phase, a major project that includes stripping the Dome’s exterior paint down to the bare metal and repainting and renovating the structure, has been pushed over the horizon by the Capitol Visitor Center.

In the AOC’s fiscal 2002 budget request, the second phase of the Dome renovation project was the largest Capitol project item submitted by then-Architect of the Capitol Alan Hantman. He asked Congress for $42.5 million for the effort.

But that project was put on hold in 2003 until sometime after the completion of the underground visitor center being built beneath the East Front. At the time, an AOC spokeswoman said Hantman and Congressional leaders had decided that “it would not be a good idea to have the [CVC] construction going on and the Dome encased in scaffolding,” because officials wanted to give tourists at least one construction-free view of the Capitol, from the West Front.

According to current estimates by AOC officials, the CVC is not scheduled to open until the fall of 2008.

Last week, AOC spokeswoman Cynthia Snyder confirmed that the West Front painting contract would not include work on the Dome and the second phase of the renovation project “is not scheduled to be done before 2010.”

Snyder said no recent estimates have been made for how much the second phase of the Dome renovation will cost, but she called the effort “an important preservation project.” She said the effort would certainly cost more than the West Front paint job but that it will “not be on the level of the CVC,” which is currently running a price tag of almost $600 million.

According to the West Front paint job solicitation released last week, the project will include “the preparation and painting of all exterior window sashes and frames, all wooden surfaces of all storm sashes and frames, and all exterior doors and frames, ramps and enclosures of the West Front.”

The effort will also include the painting of all grilles and all iron doors and gates on the West Front and “the preparation and painting of previously painted stone surfaces as identified by the Capitol Superintendent.”

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