Obama administration officials say that the underground construction work now under way concerns a simple a utilities upgrade. But the yawning pit opened up outside the West Wing earlier this month has prompted many overeager observers of the executive branch to speculate that the construction crew is actually laying the foundation for a bunker, the Washington Post's Christian Davenport reports.
The General Services Administration says the White House utilities upgrade project, begun in May 2009, involves routine maintenance upgrades--"replacing aging electrical, cooling, heating and fire alarm equipment," Davenport writes. But the public is skeptical of the official story--and, Davenport notes, "those who work in the White House aren't buying it, either."
"One told the New York Times that the work is 'security-related' and would ultimately create an expanded underground emergency operations center," Davenport writes.
Whatever the purpose of the project, it will soon fade into the background. Once the work is completed, a GSA spokesman explained to Davenport, "the grounds will be restored to their original state." Or, as Davenport adds: "In other words, it will be as if nothing happened."
You can see a photo gallery of the construction: Here
*****~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~*****Here's an additional article written April 4, 2011 by the Daily Mail-
Is a secret lair being built under the White House? West Wing vanishes behind a fence in $86 million ear-splitting project
The West Wing of the White House is all-but disappearing behind an $86 million building project that is going to last for years.
And a mysterious tunnel is being built, fuelling speculation that a secret underground lair is what's really under construction.
In recent weeks, an expanding and sometimes ear-splitting zone of excavation has enveloped the mansion's famous office wing.
Heavy equipment and metal-and-concrete superstructures are part of the vast construction project.
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.
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.
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).
West Wing officials, especially those with offices nearest the construction, have endured painful spells of drilling and banging. Holding meetings and doing routine business amid the din has become a major challenge.
Josh Earnest, a deputy in the press office, found himself doing phone interviews on President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech as a worker jackhammered concrete inches from his window. The next day, when a second jackhammer arrived, he phoned project managers to beg for a reprieve. The work was postponed.
"They have been very respectful of the fact that we still have to keep an important operation running here,' Mr Earnest said.
Visitors to the West Wing now must navigate a temporary walkway that curves behind Pebble Beach — as the zone where TV reporters do stand-ups is called — and arches over the digging before swinging out of view behind the construction fence.
Foreign leaders arriving by motorcade often have to use another entrance. Beyond the main West Wing driveway, the construction has shut down one entrance leading to the White House residence quarters that's used for deliveries of flowers, produce and other supplies.
That fencing has cost some of the most coveted offices in America their sweeping views.
Former press secretary Robert Gibbs said: 'I've threatened to go spray paint it and make it a little bit more aesthetically pleasing.'
For most of those who work in the White House complex, the noise is the worst part. In addition to the jackhammers and bulldozers, a heavy crane that drills large earthen cores is the biggest offender, shivering and clanking as it shakes off dirt after each bore. TV correspondents facing nearby cameras have to shout to be heard.
The noise won't be going away any time soon.
The West Wing dig is but the first step in a multiphase $376 million project that will eventually progress across the White House grounds — and last for a total of four years.
What lies beneath: The secret passageway, Armageddon-proof bunker (and basement bowling alley) under the President's feet
The White House already has a number of tunnels — the exact number is, of course, classified.
The most well known is the underground corridor that leads to the President's Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a supposedly nuclear-proof bunker located six stories under the East Wing.
It was to this bunker and its adjacent Executive Briefing Room that Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice, among others, directed Government operations on September 11, 2001.