The Washington Monument will remain closed for at least 10 days while technicians examine its trouble-plagued elevator, the National Park Service said Friday.
The elevator has been out of service since Wednesday, and was shut down last Saturday and Sunday.
And it was down for a week in late July.
The 10-day shutdown will allow “staff and elevator technicians to perform a thorough evaluation . . . to understand the reasons for the recent failures,” Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the Park Service, said in a statement.
“Work to be completed includes inspection and cleaning of the hoistway, checking the integrity of the circuit breakers . . . inspection of . . . the fans on top of the elevator car; and cleaning and lighting work in the stairwell,” Litterst said.
Since 2014 — when the monument reopened after damage from a 2011 earthquake was repaired — one of the most important elevators in Washington has been on the blink 24 times. The Park Service said there are a host of reasons.
Mainly, the elevator is 15 years old, and mechanical and electrical systems seem to be wearing out, Litterst said in an interview Friday. And the elevator may have sustained damage as a result of the quake on Aug. 23, 2011, that is just now revealing itself, he said.
“Moisture that got in through the cracks, and the water that was in there that shouldn’t have been,” he said. “We may now be seeing, five years down the road, the corrosive effects on very sensitive electronics.”
The Park Service plans to replace the elevator’s dated control system, Litterst said.
“This is a horrible inconvenience, and frustrating for us and our visitors,” he said.
The elevator was only slightly damaged during the 5.8-magnitude earthquake but sat idle for more than two years as structural repairs were made to the monument.
The most recent problem began about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday when a “compensation cable” that steadies the elevator in its shaft came loose, shutting down the system, Litterst said.
On Saturday night, the elevator shut down near the top level of the 555-foot monument because of a tripped circuit breaker. No one was on board. But 73 visitors had to walk down the 896 steps from the observation level, Litterst said.
Repairs were made. The elevator resumed service Sunday morning, but it broke down 20 minutes later, at the same level, when a circuit breaker again was tripped, he said.
Repairs were quickly made and 64 temporarily stranded visitors rode the elevator to the bottom.
It resumed service Monday, only to shut down again two days later.
On July 23 a bearing failed, crippling the elevator for six days. The failure happened during a pre-opening run.
“That was just a flat-out end-of-it’s-useful-life mechanical sort of thing,” he said. “It dated back to the 1999-2001 new elevator installation.”
“They tell us you expect fifteen, twenty years out of those, depending on how hard the elevator is used,” he said. “There may not be a harder-working elevator, at least in this city.”
“It runs uninterrupted from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the year round,” he said. “And then in the hottest months of the year, it’s running from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. There is, unfortunately, no rest for this elevator.”
The previous major shutdown was May 13, when the elevator was out of service until May 16. “That was traced to a faulty computer chip,” he said. “Had to be replaced and reprogrammed.”
On March 29, it broke down with 19 people on board and 23 stuck on an upper level. All were evacuated safely. The cause was an electrical problem.
The monument’s steps have been closed to visitors, barring emergencies, since the 1970s, Litterst said.