White House $86 Million Makeover: Was It Money Well Spent?

After two years of construction work and $86 million, scaffolding around the West Wing of the White House came down. Two years remain on the construction project, which began in September 2010. The overhaul to the complex is slated to cost $376 million overall. Not much visually has changed to the outside shell of the building. The work done beneath the surface and where all the major changes took place was shrouded in secrecy, according to the Daily Mail

Last year, White House officials called the project an “overdue upgrade of underground facilities.” Rumors speculating about a big hole in the ground actually being part a new underground tunnel have been circulating since the first scoop of dirt flew into the air. Witness comments summarized by the Daily Mail allude to a multi-story structure whose underground assemblage necessitated the need for multiple truckloads of steel beams and concrete to arrive at the work site. Subcontractors were allegedly told by the GSA not to discuss the work they were completing and to tape over any identifying logos on their work vehicles.

GSA officials denied the claims that a bomb shelter or additional office space was being constructed and maintained that the structure was simply facilitating the utility work and would not elaborate further. The Presidential Emergency Operations Center, otherwise known as the presidential bunker, dates back to the Roosevelt administration, and is allegedly housed beneath the East Wing.

Department representative Mafara Hobson had this to say about future work on the building, which houses both government offices and residential living space:

“The scope of any additional work in the West and East wings has not been determined, so the timing obviously hasn’t been finalized.”

Although the sandstone facade of the West Wing appears unchanged, the GSA department, which oversaw the makeover, maintains that antiquated storm sewers, water and steam lines, sewers, heating, air, electrical, and fire control equipment were all updated, according to the New York Daily News.