Washington Monument reopening pushed back to Friday

WASHINGTON — The Washington Monument’s elevator problems have resulted in an even longer closure than first estimated, pushing back its opening until Friday, the National Park Service said.

The park service said Tuesday that the monument is expected to reopen on Friday after a faulty bearing caused problems with the elevator Saturday morning before the monument opened. Earlier this week, the NPS estimated that it would reopen Wednesday.

“We’re taking advantage of the closure to complete some outstanding maintenance work on the system, including a thorough cleaning of the accumulated dirt and grime on the elevator cab, and adjusting the gap on the car doors,” NPS spokesman Mike Litterst told WTOP.

“These are projects that can’t be done while the elevator’s in operation, but which we believe will increase the long term reliability of the system,” he added.

Further down the road, he said they will look at the possible need to replace the computer that operates the elevator.

“At 15 years old, it’s not unlike buying a new iPhone, yet using an operating system from an old flip phone. It’s a lengthy process to replace. It starts with an analysis of the current system that will make recommendations for any needed upgrades to increase the reliability and maximize the life span of the current elevator machinery,” he said.

Litterst adds that because of its popularity, there is no good time to shut down the Washington Monument, but the NPS understands that closing it during the summer tourist season is particularly frustrating.

“We’re working diligently to get the repairs completed and the monument reopened as quickly as is practicable,” he said.

The NPS says no visitors were in the monument at the time Saturday and no staff members were affected.

Elevator problems have closed the monument several times over the past year.

Earlier this year, the elevator forced two closures in a week, and in May 2015, an elevator power failure cause a multiday closure. In June 2015, the monument closed to allow for repairs to a mechanical alignment issue with the elevator. The park service says the elevator problem was caused by the repeated elevator shutdowns in May.

Also, in August 2015, an elevator malfunction forced 63 people — two of whom were pregnant — to walk the 500 feet down to the bottom after being stranded at the top.

In February 2016, the monument was closed for several days after the elevator control box was inadvertently damage by a contractor working in the structure on an unrelated issue.

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Sarah Beth Hensley

Sarah Beth Hensley is the Digital News Director at WTOP. She has worked several different roles since she began with WTOP in 2013 and has contributed to award-winning stories and coverage on the website.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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