Washington Secrets

Crumbling Capitol buildings desperate for repairs

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

Age, water and weather damage to the U.S. Capitol and several congressional buildings have reached dangerous levels, prompting officials to remove loose stones before they fall on people and requiring emergency fixes worth $154.7 million.

Already in the midst of a long-term project to repair the Capitol Dome and exterior, the Architect of the Capitol this week added the sprawling House Rayburn Building to five other major facilities including the Hart Senate Office Building to those in poor condition.

Architect Stephen Ayers showed House appropriators Tuesday pictures of large sections of stone mission from Capitol Building window frames and crumbling panels on the Cannon Building.

"The results of the evaluations confirm that the conditions of exterior stone on congressional buildings across the Capitol campus are severely deteriorating and need to be addressed quickly in order to preserve much of the original material as possible," added Ayers.

Most of the damage is from water seeping into the grout and behind the marble, sandstone and other stones that make up the exteriors of most congressional buildings. And today's snow won't help. "The AOC has recorded evidence of water entry into the interior of several buildings as a result of exterior stone failures as well as wall separation, and stone movement or misalignment," said Ayers.

He is seeking a total budget of $681.7 million in fiscal year 2014, of which $154.7 million will pay for the new fixes and $63.9 million for projects long delayed. Ayers has tried to string out the costly repairs but said further delay could be dangerous.

Why so much money? "Repairing these issues will take more than a coat of paint," he said. "To preserve the exterior building stone and metals for as long as possible and to protect the building occupants from harm, we will need to implement a long-term exterior stone restoration program that will prevent water infiltration; slow deterioration of the stone and corrosion of decorative metals; repair existing damage and deterioration, and remove disfiguring and damaging soil and stains."

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