Crews in charge of running tests on the Capitol Visitor Center’s fire- and life-safety systems will begin working double shifts this week, a move designed to make sure things stay on track leading up to the facility’s November opening.
[IMGCAP(1)]With several thousand smoke and fire alarm devices needing to be checked, the testing process remains the biggest hurdle before the long-awaited CVC can open. And although officials remain cautious, they continue to predict that the tests will be wrapped up this summer.
“The double shifts are a precautionary measure to allow us to build as much float into the remainder of the schedule for other potential risks and uncertainties during the testing process,” CVC spokesman Tom Fontana said. “The testing is on schedule … and proceeding well overall.”
The double shifts are expected to last six weeks, Fontana said. Their presence isn’t unexpected; planners included them when drafting the testing schedule last fall, Fontana added.
More than 99 percent of the construction work at the CVC is finished. Although most of the CVC is underground, it is on the outside where the most recent progress can be seen.
Located on the Capitol’s East Front, the CVC will serve as a welcoming point for visitors to the Congressional campus. CVC designers took special care to ensure that the facility’s outdoor space stayed true to the original design of Frederick Law Olmsted, the first landscape architect of the Capitol.
Olmsted — who also designed New York’s Central Park — wanted the Congressional grounds to be a beautiful space, but one that maintained the Capitol itself as the central focus point.
Crews are in the process of removing trailers, and other vehicles are slowly being removed from the East Front’s grassy oval. Sod placements and vegetation will be planted in the oval this spring, Fontana said. Most of the other decorative and historical seatwalls, fountains and lamp posts already have been installed, he added.
A total of 85 trees will be planted on the East Front by the time the CVC opens. Leaves from tulip bulbs that were planted early this January around the two historic Olmsted fountains have just begun to peek above the soil, Fontana said.
Inside the CVC, the only significant construction work left is near the East Front of the Capitol.
While masons have just about finished setting wall and floor stone at the Crypt, Rotunda and Gallery levels of the CVC, they remain at work installing stone stair treads on the area’s south staircase, Fontana said. Other workers are wrapping up sanding the staircase’s plaster finish, preparing it for its final painting, Fontana added.
Ceiling panel installation continues in the tunnel to the Library of Congress, and the installation of a terrazzo floor in the tunnel has begun as well.
Other crew members remain focused on the punchlist of about 14,000 smaller items that need to be tackled, which includes cleaning grout lines, touching up paint, polishing bronze, adjusting light fixtures, testing sound systems and washing down the CVC’s wall and floor stone.
CVC Project Executive Bernie Ungar told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch last month that while the entire list of punch items is not likely to be wrapped up by November, the vital elements needed for the CVC to open will be completed.