The Washington Monument will be closed until mid-September for elevator repairs and evaluation ahead of an expected nine-month closure for further work that may cost as much as $3 million, officials said Tuesday.
The monument, which has been plagued with elevator problems in recent weeks, has been closed since Aug. 17 after a cable on the bottom of its elevator cab broke loose, the National Park Service said in a news release.
Officials initially thought repairs — which included checking circuit breakers with thermal imaging and cleaning the lighting in the stairwell — would be completed by the end of the month.
On Wednesday, after a meeting with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), an outspoken critic of the monument’s closures, they changed that estimate, saying the landmark will be closed for weeks as officials figure out what needs to be done to eliminate elevator problems in the long term.
After this evaluation, the monument will reopen — but close again in the future for about nine months after officials secure bids for further modernization, including an upgrade of the elevator’s control system.
The Park Service did not say when that nine-month closure would begin.
“The computer system is from the late 1990s,” National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst said. “We’re going to bring all that up to modern, state-of-the-art.”
Norton has not been shy in her criticism of Washington Monument repairs, writing on Twitter that the recent 10-day closure during peak tourist season was the “last straw.”
After the meeting, Norton faulted the Park Service for not acting sooner after the 2011 earthquake that closed the monument for nearly three years.
“I believe NPS erred in not rehabilitating the elevator when the Monument was closed for renovations following the 2011 earthquake,” Norton said 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.”
Norton, however, seemed satisfied with the new plan. “NPS has now embarked on the appropriate wholesale and comprehensive reconstruction of the elevator that should ensure the end of the frequent breakdowns,” she said.
The Park Service, meanwhile, said it was on the right track to make improvements.
“We share [Norton’s] frustration in its continued closure and are working diligently to determine the causes for the recent problems and to develop a long-term solution to modernize the elevator,” National Mall and Memorial Parks Superintendent Gay Vietzke said in a statement.
Litterst said that when it reopens next month before the extended closure, the monument will be safe for visitors. “If we had any indication it would be unsafe, we would close it — period,” he said.