WASHINGTON - One of Washington D.C.’s biggest attractions has a monumental problem that will force it to close for nine months. The National Park Service said the elevator at the Washington Monument is at the end of its life and will need to be renovated and modernized.
For now, the 555-foot monument is staying closed until immediate elevator repairs and inspections are finished. They are expected to last until mid-September.
Last week, it was announced there would be a "top-to-bottom" inspection of the elevator, which would result in a 10-day closure. But that work is taking longer than expected and they are inspecting and cleaning the hoistway, checking the integrity of the circuit breakers using thermal imaging, inspecting and completing any needed repairs to the fans on top of the elevator car and working and cleaning the lighting in the stairwell.
The Washington Monument will reopen, but it will have to be shut down again for the 9-month elevator renovation. The National park Service said it is expected to cost between $2 million and $3 million.
The Washington Monument only has one elevator and the last time it was updated was back in the 1990s. While there was $15 million in repair work done to fix the damage caused by the 5.8-magnitude earthquake five years ago, that repair work was not performed on the elevator, but mostly on the monument itself.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton had a briefing with the National Park Service on Wednesday where the repairs were described as an "emergency situation.” While the park service was expecting that it would have to be done, they were not expecting it would have to be done so soon.
"We were anticipating we would have to do this and we have been lining up the funding,” said Gay Vietzke, superintendent of National Mall and Memorial Parks for the National Park Service. “I think it’s all become that more urgent because we have had some unexpected closures in the past couple of weeks, which have impacted our service to the public."
"I believe NPS erred in not rehabilitating the elevator when the monument was closed for renovations," said Del. Norton in a statement. "When an elevator seems to be in good shape, but is a one-of-a-kind elevator that operates 13 hours per day from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and eight hours per day thereafter, the elevator's lifespan must be uniquely measured."
The Washington Monument was closed for nearly three years after the 2011 earthquake. But since it reopened, the National Park Service has had to close it 24 times, including this past Sunday when the elevator failed twice in 12 hours.