Bradley K. Sperman
2021-10-07 13:38:13 UTC
indefinitely because of ongoing problems with its elevator, the
latest in a series of woes for one of the city's most enduring
The National Park Service announced Monday that the monument,
which draws 600,000 visitors a year, will remain closed until
its elevator control system can be modernized, a process
expected to take up to nine months once work begins. A start
date for the $3 million project has not been determined.
The lone elevator that takes visitors to the top of the 555-foot
obelisk has broken down frequently over the past two years,
roughly since the monument reopened after being damaged in an
Park service officials have said they don't believe that the
2011 earthquake caused the elevator problems. But they don't
know exactly what's wrong with it. Despite a monthlong
inspection, "we have not been able to determine the cause of the
ongoing reliability issues," the park service statement said.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who represents the
District of Columbia in Congress, said the timing of the closure
"could not be worse," given the crowds coming for the opening of
the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History
and Culture, which is next to the monument.
"We have grown so accustomed to the repeated closures that
unless there is some danger to the public, the monument should
be open to the public for as long as possible," Norton said in
Mike Litterst, a park service spokesman, said the elevator is
safe, but the breakdowns present an ongoing inconvenience. When
the elevator stalls, passengers are usually evacuated onto a
landing and walk the rest of the way down.
"There are other factors in play when we have service
interruptions. When it gets stuck, people are stuck inside there
for 40 minutes to an hour in cramped, closed quarters," he said.
"We couldn't put visitors or staff at risk by attempting to
reopen, knowing it was likely going to happen again."
The park service hopes to announce a timetable for the
renovation within the next few weeks.
It's possible that limited groups of people might be allowed to
walk the 896 steps to the top of the monument during the
closure, but that option won't be available to the general
public, Litterst said.
"We certainly share the frustration and the disappointment of
the visitors," he said.