- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Workers are beginning to fill the more than 1,300 cracks in the Capitol dome as the next phase of restoration on the 150-year-old American icon begins.

Stephen Ayers, Architect of the Capitol, said Tuesday that the scaffolding, which gives workers access to the dome to paint and repair cracks, is complete. Construction crews used 52 miles of scaffolding pipe to erect the 25 layers that stretch from the bottom of the dome to the statue of freedom.

“I’m pleased to announce this morning that the scaffolding you see behind me is complete,” Mr. Ayers told reporters from the roof of the Capitol. “This is a significant milestone for us in our dome restoration project.”

Now that construction workers can access the dome, they will begin filling about 12,800 inches of cracks, according to a fact sheet from the Architect of the Capitol. In addition, all the lead-based paint will be blasted off and the dome will be repainted, and some large decorative pieces that are damaged will be removed, recast and reattached to the dome, Mr. Ayers said.

Sen. John Hoeven, North Dakota Republican, said the $60 million restoration is a priority for him and many Americans.

“This is incredibly important. The dome is a symbol not just for our country of freedom and liberty, but a symbol of freedom and liberty for the world,” he said.

The enclosure over a piece of scaffolding on the East Front is to contain the mess when lead-based paint is blasted off the dome, said Joe Abriatis, construction manager at the Architect of the Capitol.

People doing this work wear specialty suits, and all debris from blasting is sucked out of the enclosure with a large vacuum tube.

Workers also demonstrated several of the repair tools and techniques, including placing two magnets on either side of a crack and sprinkling metal shavings in the crack to help show its size and shape.

Mr. Ayers said those involved in the project are also using tablets with software to track all cracks and defects in the dome, with many of the tools and techniques designed specifically for this project.

The dome was last restored about 50 years ago and Mr. Ayers said this restoration should last between 75 and 100 years.

Mr. Abriatis said the project is both on budget and on schedule for completion by next fall, with all scaffolding down before the presidential inauguration in January 2017.

“When the next president is sworn in the people of America … can be comfortable and confident that just like this great nation, [the dome] is here for a long time,” Mr. Hoeven said.

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