Washington Monument to be closed indefinitely

WASHINGTON — The Washington Monument will remain closed indefinitely as officials continue to struggle with the elevator problems that have dogged the structure for years.

“We have not been able to determine the causes of the ongoing reliability issues,” said Mike Litterst, of the National Park Service, 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.”

After the monument was closed in August due to elevator problems three times in a five-day span, Litterst told WTOP, the park service was prompted to “close it down and spend some time getting in and … (giving) it a really thorough evaluation.”

After that, the plan was to reopen the monument until a full-scale modernization could be done.

A group of independent consultants brought in to examine the elevator system couldn’t say exactly what was causing all the problems, Litterst said, and “they can’t guarantee that it’s not gonna keep happening,” so the park service made “the reluctant decision” to keep the monument closed until the modernization is finished.

The park service said last month that damage from the 2011 earthquake was likely the root cause of the frequent breakdowns of the elevator system.

But a consultant has found no evidence that the earthquake contributed to the problems and that the problems leading to the shutdowns weren’t related, Litterst told WTOP.

“It’s just probably getting close to the end of its useful life,” he said.

The last time the monument’s elevator was fully modernized was after the shutdown from 1998 to 2001, Litterst said.

The tallest elevator in the District, it runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the summer. It’s the only elevator in the monument, Litterst added, and “it’s in constant use, which certainly adds to its stresses.”

Litterst said an announcement of the possible duration of the closure, and the work to be done, would be announced in the next few weeks. He added, however, that “We don’t have a firm time frame, but … it will be measured in months.”

Litterst called the shutdown “tremendously frustrating” for visitors, “but for the staff as well.”

He added, “We’re looking at a variety of ways to increase programming. … What other programs can we do? But of course it’s a disappointment not to go up.”

WTOP’s Jamie Forzato contributed to this report.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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