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Costs Of Capitol Hill Visitor Center Could Double From Initial Projection
Tue Oct 14 2003 10:09:28 ET

The plans for an underground visitor center on Capitol Hill have been proceeding apace since the Capitol shooting, the 9/11 attacks and the anthrax scare. Among other things, the center would allow for modern screening of tourists before they got into the main buildings on the Capitol. But the cost of construction is another matter, ABC NEWS reported Monday night.

"If they ever finish it, the Capitol visitor center will be a nice introduction for tourists who want to see how Congress works. It is also an object lesson in how Congress works." Steve Ellis, Taxpayers for Common Sense: "Not only has Congress allowed the costs to get out of hand. They don't seem to have any desire to actually control the costs."

When the dig started three years ago, leaders eagerly took credit for something they thought voters back home would like." But "here's what really happens on the Hill. The original cost estimate of the underground center was $265 million. But then, Congress added $70 million to expand their own office space. $35 million to upgrade security. And another $48 million for cost overruns.

A disgusted Congressman trying to hold down the cost says no one is in charge. The money just disappears into the ground." Rep. Jack Kingston: "It's, unfortunately, the poster child for congressional and governmental inefficiency."

The latest add on for security, a $10 million tunnel to the Library of Congress, supposedly to provide an escape route. But there are already seven other tunnels on Capitol Hill. What do you accomplish by building a tunnel for $10 million to get across the street to the Library of Congress?"

Rep. Kingston: "The only thing I can think of is you can get your hand in the tourists' pocket and sell them a T-shirt that says I went to the Library of Congress. That's it. Members will not be using the tunnel." Cochran: "Many think the final cost of the big dig will be over twice the original estimate, over $500 million.


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