- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 4, 2006


The projected opening date of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center has been pushed back again, from September to summer 2007, because of continued construction problems.

The $584 million project is already more than two years behind schedule and $200 million overbudget, but Architect of the Capitol Alan M. Hantman told a Senate subcommittee last week that problems with the fire protection system, gift shops and utility tunnel will cause more delays.

The new tentative time frame of next July appears to be reasonable, said officials with the Government Accountability Office.

The wall stone installation is well behind schedule, the fire alarm system has been redesigned several times, and the gift shop is overbudget, according to the GAO, which monitors the project’s progress.

The 580,000-square-foot underground center on the Capitol’s east side is the largest addition in the building’s history, increasing its size by two-thirds.

It will include an exhibition area twice as big as the Rotunda where visitors can see artifacts, documents and the catafalque that supported the caskets of people who have lain in state. There will be galleries where visitors can see live feeds of congressional business and use monitors to scan voting records as well as a 600-seat cafeteria.

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