The Washington Monument likely will be closed until September, Washington, D.C.'s non-voting member of Congress said Wednesday after receiving the news during a meeting she arranged with National Park Service officials.
Democratic Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton started an investigation after the National Park Service, which maintains the National Mall and Washington's famous monuments, announced last week it would close the attraction for 10 days because of a malfunctioning elevator that has broken down several times this year alone.
After an investigation into the elevator's chronic problems is complete, the National Park Service plans to remodel the monument's elevator system that could require a closure lasting as long as nine months.
"I appreciate the thorough briefing by [the park service] and the transparency it has afforded us on the condition of the Washington Monument's elevator," Norton said.
"I regret that [the park service] believes that the full modernization would shut down the monument itself for as much as nine months, and I am requesting that the closure of the monument for the purpose of repairs be completed before next year's tourist season begins."
Norton blamed the National Park Service for failing to fix the elevator at the hugely popular tourist attraction after the August 2011 5.8 magnitude earthquake did significant damage to the 555-foot monument. That damage included large cracks that required a $15 million investment.
As previously reported by the Washington Examiner, that money did not cover the cost of repairing the elevator, and the park service only recently disclosed that the monument's 20-year-old elevator panel needs to be replaced. The park service has speculated that water may have seeped through the cracks caused by the earthquake, damaging the elevator.
"I believe [the park service] erred in not rehabilitating the elevator when the monument was closed for renovations following the 2011 earthquake," Norton said. "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.
"However, [the park service] has now embarked on the appropriate wholesale and comprehensive reconstruction of the elevator that should ensure the end of the frequent breakdowns."