The front door and the Marine who guards it have disappeared behind a high green-and-white plywood fence. From Pennsylvania Avenue, all that’s visible is a sliver of second-floor roof line.
For years to come, the front yard at 1600 Pennsylvania will remain a noisy building site, say officials in charge of the White House’s ‘Big Dig‘.
Officials describe the job as an overdue upgrade of underground utilities. That includes water and sewer lines, electrical conduits, pipes for chilled and hot water and steam heat systems, and storm sewers. Heating, air conditioning and fire alarm systems are being replaced. Some systems are getting backups.
Major work: Construction includes a mysterious tunnel which has led to speculation of a secret underground lair
Major work: Building includes a mysterious tunnel which has led to speculation of a secret underground lair
To build the tunnel, crews have poured in huge concrete pylons, put up retaining walls and brought in truckloads of steel beams.
The construction site has expanded from in front of the West Wing around to the side and across a parking lot to the next-door Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
The General Services Administration, which is supervising the work, has denied the tunnel is a new shelter – just an access to the utilities.
Noise: Former White House press aide Robert Gibbs offered to spray paint the fence blocking his office view
Noise: Former White House press aide Robert Gibbs offered to spray paint the fence blocking his view
Spokesman Sahar Wali said the steel and concrete is needed ‘to create enough space and a pathway for replacement of the new utilities infrastructure at the proper depth and location’.
She said the construction was not putting in place long-standing plans for underground office space or an underground driveway entrance.
Of course, there would not be much point in telling everyone about building a secret tunnel (after all, the emphasis is on secret).