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NATIONAL VISITOR CENTER ACT OF 1967
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 11, 1967
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
SUBCOMMITTEE ON PUBLIC BUILDINGS
The House Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds of the full Committee on Public Works is privileged to sit this morning in continuation of public hearing on H.R. 12603, by Mr. Gray.
Mr. GRAY. Last year the Chair had the privilege of sponsoring H.R. 14604, which became Public Law 89-790, which created a 21-member study commission to study the needs, sites and plans for a Visitor Center in the Nation's Capital.
I am proud to say that the Congress named the very outstanding and able Secretary of the Interior, the Honorable Stewart L. Udall, to head this 21-member Commission. The Commission deliberated for several months and reported back to the Congress on September 15, 1967, their findings and recommendations.
I am very pleased to announce that we are fortunate in having as our first witness this morning the very able and outstanding Secretary of the Interior, who will, on behalf of the 21-member Commission, report to the committee on the Commission's recommendations.
I understand the Secretary has a number of officials with him. At this time I would like to call the Secretary to come forward-and, Mr. Secretary, we are certainly delighted to have you with us this morning.
We deeply appreciate the time, energy, and intelligence you have displayed in this matter. I think you can tell from the large number of Congressmen on both sides of the aisle who have introduced this legislation that it is a vital subject, which is one of interest not only here in Congress but throughout the Nation.
I might say that we have had hundreds of letters and telegrams, and phone calls, from people who are really enthused about, finally, after all these long years, we are about to provide facilities to accommodate the millions of visitors who come to Washington each year. So I want to congratulate you on your fine work and recognize you now to proceed in your own fashion.
After your statement has been made, if you would like to introduce the other accompanying witnesses, we would be delighted to have you You may proceed.
STATEMENT OF STEWART L. UDALL, SECRETARY OF THE INTE
RIOR; ACCOMPANIED BY T. SUTTON JETT, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, PARK SERVICE; ROBERT L. PLAVNICK, AIP, URBAN PLANNING CONSULTANT, WASHINGTON, D.C.; SEYMOUR AUERBACH, OF COOPER & AUERBACH, AIA, ARCHITECTS, WASHINGTON, D.C. Secretary UDALL. Thank you very much.
I have a prepared statement. I would like it to appear in the record, and I will summarize the main points of it, if I may. Mr. GRAY. Yes, that will be fine. (Prepared statement follows:)
STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF
THE INTERIOR STEWART L. UDALL
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, the Department of the Interior recommends enactment of legislation which would authorize the establishment of Union Station as a National Visitor Center under the administration of this Department. Such action by the Congress would make possible the renovation of historic Union Station and the provision of facilities to assure the visitor a meaningful and inspired stay in his Nation's Capital. The use of Union Station for this purpose is consistent with its monumental character and its location. The McMillan Plan of 1901 envisioned the structure as a gateway to the Nation's Capital from which the visitor sees the historical dome of the United States Capitol Building as he enters the city.
The City of Washington offers an unrivaled variety of sights: the Capitol, White House, Supreme Court, monuments, museums, and parks. Excellent lodging, dining, shopping, entertainment and recreation facilities are offered. But above all, to our citizens Washington is the heart of the Nation, for here is located the seat of the Federal Government; here the Nation's leadership copes with the major problems; here significant decisions of national and international importance are made. To visit Washington is to sense the excitement of today and to see the lasting evidence of our heritage.
In November 1966, the Congress created a Study Commission to make a full and complete investigation and study of sites and plans to provide facilities and services for visitors and students coming to the Nation's Capital. I had the honor to serve as Chairman of this Study Commission. Serving with me on this Commission were six members of the House of Representatives, including the distinguished Chairman of your sub-committee, the Honorable Kenneth J. Gray; six members of the United States Senate; and a number of distinguished citizen representatives.
The Study Commission divided itself into three subcommittees. The Sub-Committee to Consider a Site or Sites, Chaired by Representative Gray of Illinois, studied a number of sites where such a Visitor Center might be located. It was the view of the subcommittee, and the full Commission, that the projected increase in visitation to this city over the next 15 years would require more than one facility to meet the demand of the millions of visitors from the United States and abroad. The Subcommittee on Information and Interpretive Programs, chaired by Representative Fred Schwengel of Iowa, and the Subcommittee on Transportation and Parking, chaired by Senator Joseph D. Tydings of Maryland, also gave much time and attention to these aspects of visitor accommodations and their reports to full Commission were also approved.
Information has been gained also from experiments conducted in recent years by the National Park Service of this Department. Kiosks were placed at strategic points in the monumental area to provide information for the visitor. Information stations were placed along major highways entering Washington for a sixweek period to determine visitor use of such facilities and the types of information they requested. During the fall of 1966, a six-week experiment was conducted with an interpretive shuttle transportation service in the Mall area. A general orientation program on the Nation's Capital, the Washington Briefings for Young Americans, developed at the suggestion of the Vice President, were presented as pilot programs at the Departmental Auditorium. In each experiment, records were made of the type of questions asked, the information and service. provided, and the reaction of the visitors.
Moreover, during 1966, we invited a group of business and civic leaders to work with us in improving the visitor experience in Washington. Information gained from interviews with these citizens and other authorities in Washington familiar with the problems of visitors, both from the point of view of seeing the many important places in the Nation's Capital and from the point of view of the interest of the business community, has also been utilized in assessing the Visitor Center question.
There were approximately ten million visitors in Washington in 1965 for education and pleasure. In 1976, attendance in excess of eighteen million may be expected. Daily attendance even now may vary from a low of 8,500 to a high of 65,000; however, during the busy April through August period, the daily attendance varies from a low of 30,000 to a high of 138,000, with holiday or special event peaks of approximately 150,000. Visitor center facilities of great magnitude are clearly needed.
Mr. Chairman, the National Visitor Center Study Commission has prepared to report to the Congress as required by the act of November 7, 1966. The report summarizes the studies already made of the need for a National Visitor Center in the Nation's Capital. Union Station was the choice of the full Commission for a major Visitor Center. In the long-range plan it offers an unusually favorable opportunity to launch a program to meet the critical need of providing better visitor service in the Capital City. The Commission has also employed a consulting firm to study improvements to the Union Station area which would make it suitable for a National Visitor Center and provide adjacent parking accommoda: tions. These consultants are present and have with them architectural drawings showing how the Union Station might be treated to provide these services. The drawings also show the recommended parking structure which is to be located over the tracks to the north of Union Station.
Thank you very much.
Secretary UDALL. I would also point out, Mr. Chairman, that the Visitor Center Study Commission had a mandate to make a report to the Congress. We have done that and I am sure the committee, if it has not already done so, will want to make that official report a part of the record.
Mr. GRAY. Yes. Mr. Secretary, it will be printed in its entirety in the record.
Secretary UDALL. Mr. Chairman, I should like to, before beginning, commend in particular the chairman of this subcommittee, and also the gentleman sitting at his right, who is an old friend of mine, for their leadership and keen interest in the effort that not only made the legislation possible to set up the National Visitor Center Study Commission, but the very fine work that was done implementing this study.
I think all of us who live in Washington are aware of the fact that in terms of providing the right kind of facilities for the citizens of this country and the citizens of the world who come to this great Capital to see its public places, its monuments, its places of historic interest, many of us have commented how inadequate the present facilities are, how frustrating it often is for the visitor. And I think all of the members of the Study Commission had a very strong feeling that with the right kind of Visitor Center keyed in with a transportation system, shuttle bus or minibus, whatever you want to call it, that we could tackle this job and make visiting of this Nation's Capital a delight.
I think that seeing Washington should be fun; it shouldn't be frustrating. I think the American people who come here should be able to understand what they are seeing, because a Visitor Center is an educational endeavor if it is done right. We are not only explaining where things are, but we are interpreting them; we are helping people understand the history of their country and understanding the
meaning of the things they see, so that this has been a broad endeavor, tackling what has been, I think, one of the very serious lacks.
I personally think it ought to be as much fun to see Washington as it is to see Colonial Williamsburg or Disneyland or anything else. We ought to and we can construct a Visitors Center facility and a transportation system so that those Americans and people from abroad who come here can easily and readily, and with delight, see this Capital and the wonderful places here. So this is our beginning point, and I know the members of this committee share the Commission's desire to see this end result.
The Study Commission, Mr. Chairman, divided itself into three subcommittees, as you well know. We had a subcommittee to study a site or sites—I think this was the key subcommittee and the chairman of this subcommittee presided over it. A number of sites were studied. It was the view of this subcommittee, and the full Commission concurred, that the projected increase in visitation to this city over the next 15 years would, in the long run, require more than one facility to meet the demands of the millions of visitors who will come here.
The Subcommittee on Information and Interpretative programs, chaired by Congressman Fred Schwengel of Iowa, and the Subcommittee on Transportation and Parking, chaired by Senator Joseph Tydings of Maryland, also gave much time and attention to these aspects of visitor accommodations, and we keyed these reports together into the final report of the full Commission.
The main conclusion of the Commission was that the logical place to build the first Information Center and large parking facility was the Union Station, which is of course located in a very convenient and appropriate place to serve as a Visitors Center.
Union Station was the unanimous choice of the Commission. We have, as part of our final study on this, retained consultants and I want them to make a presentation here in just a moment that will give the committee a very clear cut idea of what kind of Visitor Center we would have, what kind of facilities would be provided, how the whole thing would function. And I think this will be a very exciting and very promising beginning, and particularly when we key this in with a convenient parking facility and key it in with a minibus service that will run a constant path near the main monuments in the city, where we will have a service by which the city is interpreted to people not only in the Visitor Center itself, but in the transportation facilities which are provided.
I think this can make Washington really come alive to the visitor and make it an exciting experience for any American.
Mr. Chairman, in our official report, I would like to call the attention of the committee to two or three suggested amendments to the legislation. It is our feeling that in order to give us adequate flexibility for the future, the Secretary of the Interior should have authority to purchase and invest Federal money in the improvements as well as the authority to enter into a lease arrangement.
We just feel that it is better to have all the options available for the future.
We further suggest, concerning the figure of $2,935,000 annually as a lease figure, that rather than writing this in the legislation, we