Firm wins pact to develop monument-repair plan

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The engineering firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates was awarded the contract to design a restoration plan for the earthquake-damaged Washington Monument, National Park Service officials said Thursday.

The announcement came shortly after the federal agency released the engineering firm’s detailed assessment of the landmark that includes recommendations on how to fix cracks in the structure’s large marble stones.

“This assessment gives us the information we needed to determine how to go about repairing this iconic structure,” said Bob Vogel, superintendent for the Mall.

The survey does not include a time frame or cost estimate for fix damage from the magnitude 5.8 quake that shook much of the Mid-Atlantic on Aug. 23.

The assessment was conducted over nearly two months, including several days in which four members of the firm’s climbing team rappelled the 555-foot-tall monument for an up-close look at the damage.

The assessment states the repairs would “restore the strength of damaged elements” and “address cosmetic and durability issues.”

Because of water seepage, some short-term stabilization efforts to the monument should be made until long-term repairs can be designed and implemented, the assessment also states.

National Park Service spokeswoman Carol Johnson said weatherization began in the early autumn, including sealing some of the joints on the inside of the structure.

The monument has been closed since the earthquake, and agency officials have said the damage would likely have been worse if not for a $5 million restoration in 1998.

The Illinois-based engineering firm also surveyed the earthquake-damaged Washington National Cathedral. The Northwest church is structurally sound, but pieces of heavy, decorative limestone were damaged, including a pinnacle on the southeast tower. Officials estimate the church’s total repairs will cost at least $15 million.

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