Washington Monument likely closed until 2014

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Local,DC,Liz Farmer

The Washington Monument could be closed as long as two more years after last summer's earthquake caused structural damage, but most D.C. tourists are taking the news in stride.

"I'm disappointed, sure," said Dennis Beaver, a Texas tourist who was walking by the monument Monday afternoon with his family. "But safety comes first. It isn't often that you have a [5.8] earthquake here."

The National Park Service on Monday released an assessment that estimates the $15 million repairs to the monument will take between 12 and 18 months after work is expected to begin this September, more than a year after the August 2011 earthquake.

Monument's many closures
The Washington Monument has been closed for more than three of the last 14 years.
Oct. 1998-Feb. 1999
Dec. 1999-July 2000
Dec. 2000-Feb. 2002
Sept. 2004-April 2005
Aug. 2011-Sept. 2013/March 2014
TOTAL (so far): 3 years, 3 months

"We're hoping to get it done sooner, but I think we have to be honest," NPS Superintendent Bob Vogel said Monday.

Julian Hoelz, a native of Germany who has lived in Minnesota for the last year, was taking pictures of the monument and said he was disappointed he wouldn't be able to go inside.

"I've heard there's a really great view of Washington, D.C.," he said, adding later, "I'm going to come back."

Some tourists hadn't even known the monument was ever open. Others didn't know it was still closed because of the earthquake but said they weren't that disappointed.

The Park Service issued requests for contractor bids on June 29, and expects to name a contractor for the monument by September. Vogel said the agency at that point would likely be able to more closely pinpoint the reopening date for the 555-foot obelisk. The quake damaged the interior and exterior masonry, the lightning protection system and the elevator of the 124-year-old monument.

Vogel added that the Park Service has included a request in the bid to have more eye-catching scaffolding, possibly including a patriotic decorative cloth, instead of "just putting up the standard, boring scaffolding."

The last time the monument had scaffolding on it was in 1999, when it was closed for more than one year during a $9.4 million restoration project.

Philanthropist David Rubenstein has donated $7.5 million for this round of repairs. Congress has approved the remaining half of the funding.

lfarmer@washingtonexaminer.com

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