CVC Watch

Posted October 29, 2007 at 5:28pm

Among the necessary inconveniences created by ongoing construction of the Capitol Visitor Center: the closing of the East Front access zone between the House and Senate galleries. [IMGCAP(1)]

When the CVC opens next year, that three-level access area is expected to be reopened to Members and staff, connecting the Capitol to the CVC on the Gallery, Rotunda and Crypt levels.

Much of the focus of CVC construction crews in recent weeks has focused on completing work on the East Front extension, which was built between 1958 and 1962 but torn apart when CVC construction began in 2002.

Things now are returning to normal in the extension, which originally added 100,000 square feet to the Capitol. Wall stone installation is nearly finished on the East Front, and crews are focusing on completing installation of the ceiling grid.

Ceiling framework is nearly complete at the Gallery level and more than 50 percent complete at the Rotunda level. Crews also are almost finished with ceiling framework at the East Front elevator lobby, which is located on the upper level of the CVC.

Because the East Front extension didn’t open until more than halfway through the 20th century, no significant historic areas were affected by CVC construction in that area, according to CVC spokesman Tom Fontana.

Overall construction at the CVC is more than 97 percent finished. A lot of the work being completed now involves adding the finishing touches to the facility — crews recently installed custom light fixtures in the carriageway that connects the CVC to the Capitol, for example.

The construction of that carriageway actually was one of the more complex construction efforts at the CVC. Concrete slabs and columns that had stood to support the Capitol had to be removed, making way for a new central staircase, escalators and elevators connecting the CVC and the Capitol.

“The task of removing large structural components while never compromising the integrity of the existing structure and the adjacent historic spaces, most importantly, the Crypt and the Rotunda, was easily our greatest construction challenge,” Fontana said. “Adding to that challenge is the fact that no one yet has invented a quiet jackhammer.”

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With construction work wrapping up, crews have begun inspection of the CVC’s life and safety systems.

Mechanical experts are testing and balancing the CVC’s mechanical systems, and technicians are testing the facility’s fire- and life-safety systems. Electricians, meanwhile, are testing the light fixtures.

The testing of those systems could be the focus of discussion when House appropriators meet on Wednesday for their monthly oversight hearing on the CVC project.

The hearing of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch is expected to begin at 10 a.m. in Room 2362A of the Rayburn House Office Building.