- The Washington Times - Monday, September 26, 2016

One of the city’s iconic attractions will remain on the shelf indefinitely as the officials seek a permanent fix for the balky elevator at the Washington Monument.

The National Park Service delivered the bad news Monday after revealing its technicians were unable to root out the cause of problems that have plagued the monolith’s elevator over the last few years.

“Despite the continuing work on the Washington Monument elevator, we have not been able to determine the causes of the ongoing reliability issues,” the Park Service said in a statement Monday. “As a result, we have made the difficult decision not to reopen the Washington Monument until we can modernize the elevator control system.”

NPS officials say they don’t know how long the $3 million repair job will take, but said it would keep the public abreast of progress. Some 600,000 tourists annually visit the site honoring the country’s first president.

“The scope of work to be accomplished while the monument is closed and the duration of the closure are still being determined; we expect to have an announcement with those additional details in the next couple of weeks,” the agency said in its statement.

In late August, the park service closed the landmark for the sixth time as maintenance workers struggled to address mechanical and electrical problems with the elevator. The elevator failed twice in 12 hours, including one incident in which several employees were trapped inside.

The elevator has broken 24 times since the monument was reopened in May 2014 after a three-year closure to repair earthquake damage. After the August incident, the NPS said it would investigate how long it would take to completely overhaul the elevator system, which hasn’t seen an upgrade in almost 20 years.

Initially, the Park Service said the effort could require the monument to be closed for eight or nine months, but after Monday’s announcement that timeline is up in the air. The overhaul will focus on the elevator’s electrical infrastructure, computer system and control panel.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city’s non-voting Democratic representative in Congress, said the timing “could not be worse” as crowds arrive for the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is next to the monument on the National Mall.

“We have grown so accustomed to the repeated closures that unless there is some danger to the public, the monument should be open to the public for as long as possible,” Ms. Norton said in a statement.

NPS spokesman Mike Litterst said allowing limited groups of people to walk the 896 steps to the top of the monument was being considered, although that option won’t be available to the general public.

“We certainly share the frustration and the disappointment of the visitors,” he said.

Some tourists who hoped to enter the monument Monday were surprised to find it closed, according to The Associated Press.

“People come from all over the world to see it. You would think that it would be in excellent repair and ready to receive visitors,” Morgan Edwards of Fairfield, California, told the news service. “I’m sure a lot of people were as surprised as I am and maybe a little disappointed.”

The rare 5.8-magnitude earthquake that hit the East Coast on Aug. 23, 2011, caused more than 150 cracks in the Washington Monument. Repairs to the marble structure took about three years to complete and cost about $15 million.

A 2012 damage assessment by engineering firms Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. and Tipping Mar recommended inspecting and repairing the elevator rails and frame before reopening the monument.

No mention was made of damage to the control system, which has caused elevator outages since the monument reopened nearly two years ago.

⦁ This article was based in part on wire service reports.

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