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Campus Notebook: Romancing the Dome

The Architect of the Capitol has chosen a private construction firm to handle the next phase of the time-sensitive Dome restoration project.

Based in Providence, R.I., Gilbane Building Co. beat out more than 70 other applicants to secure the $10.5 million contract to paint and repair the Dome’s cast-iron structure and masonry walls within the skirt area. Construction should begin late this summer. The firm was the construction manager for the Capitol Visitor Center project and has worked on state Capitol domes in Michigan, New Jersey and Colorado.

Michael Crase, Gilbane’s regional vice president based in Laurel, Md., said he has already started meeting with AOC representatives and will be doing planning and preconstruction for the next few months. The construction itself will last about a year, he said.

The work involves placing around the Dome a giant doughnut-shaped scaffolding, which will be painted white to blend in with the building’s exterior.

Workers will repair historic ironwork, sandstone and brick masonry; remove lead paint; and prime and paint the interior and exterior surfaces of the Dome skirt.

The bulk of the construction will be carried out at night, Crase said, and he sees no obstacle to completing the work on time.

“The biggest challenge is going to be working around the schedule of the Capitol building and Congress,” he said.

The Dome work must be completed before the January 2013 presidential inauguration so that unsightly scaffolding doesn’t obstruct the view of the Dome during the ceremony.

“We need to be demobilized and everything cleaned up by the October 2012 time frame so they can start with the inauguration setup,” Crase said.

During the budget stalemate earlier this year, it was unclear whether funds would be appropriated to get the project started in time. The last-minute budget deal included the funds for the Dome repair.

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