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Capital Wheel on schedule for May opening

Friday - 3/28/2014, 3:56pm  ET

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The Capital Wheel is on schedule to open this spring despite harsh winter weather in the D.C. area. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. - Even with delays from the non-stop winter weather, construction for the Capital Wheel is still on schedule.

Aric Dreher, Project Manager at Cianbro Corporation, is leading the construction project says the weather, going as far back to the first polar vortex, has been tough.

"When the bay was froze and the barge got stuck in Baltimore for more than three weeks. "

In February, the barge carrying materials finally moved in and crews have been working six and seven days weeks to get the frame up.

"The wheel is up, all the spokes are up, the ring beams are up and we're getting ready to start putting gondolas on next week," Dreher said.

Now that the frame is up, 42 climate controlled gondolas will be shipped in, literally, and installed next week.

"Each one of them, there are 42 cars we have to off load one at a time with a pallet jack. They're really neat and we have to be very careful when handling them," Dreher said.

The Capital Wheel is 176 feet tall and will offer new views of the Washington Monument and Old Town Alexandria.

It's been no easy task, offloading and installing the parts for the wheel.

"You're probably over 600 tons of steal alone," Dreher said.

They also plan to use 400 yards of concrete and 3,000 square feet of canopy before the project is done.

Plus, there are 1.6 million LED lights to install.

"Each one of those spokes has a strip of LED lights on both sides, and then the ring beam also has a strip of LED lights," Dreher said. "That is probably the coolest part of the whole ride, when this thing is lit up, it's amazing."

Dreher says there is a lot of curiosity about the project from visitors to National Harbor.

"Lots of people taking pictures and asking questions," said Dreher.

In addition to the gondolas, there's a lot of work to be done around the wheel. Crews need to install a concrete deck, loading platform, informational kiosk, brand new canopies with curved beams and a ticketing gondola.

The wheel is set to open in May.

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