Cannon Renovations Will Cost $753 Million

Posted May 6, 2009 at 4:51pm

A House panel heard testimony Wednesday in support of funding an $821 million renovation project that will update the 101-year-old Cannon House Office Building and two parking garages.

Acting Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers and Terrell Dorn, director of physical infrastructure issues at the Government Accountability Office, addressed the House Administration Committee and outlined extensive maintenance that is necessary to keep the historic building up and running.

Leaks and water damage, cracked and chipped windows in the Cannon Building and outdated air-conditioning units are among the necessary renovations, according to the AOC. The construction will also help to further conserve energy and “green— the Capitol.

Dorn broke down the cost in his testimony, saying that the AOC needs $38 million for the East Garage renovations in fiscal 2010, $30 million for renovations to the West Garage in fiscal 2012 and $753 million for the Cannon renovations, which will begin in fiscal 2010.

Members of the panel were quick to question the cost of the project, saying they want to have all the figures up front and avoid adding costs at a later date. Ranking member Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) cited the public’s criticism of the hefty price tag and lengthy duration of construction of the Capitol Visitor Center, saying he hoped these renovations would go more smoothly.

“We’ve got to be very careful that we don’t fall into that trap again,— he said. “I don’t think we should skimp on preserving this national treasure, [but] the American people are looking at us and making sure we are spending our pennies wisely.—

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) echoed this sentiment. “I think it is absolutely important for us to know what we’re getting into before we begin. Nobody likes to spend money, but it’s important that we do this project and we do it well.—

Ayers proposed doing the construction in the Cannon Building in segments rather than shutting down the whole building. The best option would be to do it wing by wing, with each wing taking about a year to complete, he said.

“Not only do we face the challenge of the upkeep of an aging building, we need to keep pace with the new facility maintenance and building technologies, as well as increased security requirements,— Ayers told the committee, adding that the building “requires extensive maintenance to ensure that it continues to serve as a functioning, professional working environment for years to come.—

The AOC has been dealing with repairs, such as bubbling plaster and corroding concrete in the garages, as they come up, but Ayers says this hasn’t been easy.

For instance, in December a hot water pipe beneath the basement floor failed, and the heat in the Cannon Building had to be shut off for four days while a work crew repaired it.

“I want to assure you that the AOC will continue to respond quickly to repair any problems that arise, but the negative impact on Congressional operations will be unavoidable and will likely grow exponentially,— Ayers said.