Repeated elevator breakdowns that are mystifying maintenance crews forced officials in the capital to close the Washington Monument indefinitely Monday.
The single elevator in the popular tourist attraction has broken regularly throughout the year and officials are still stumped by the issue. Many originally thought it was related to lasting damage from the 2011 earthquake, which closed the monument for three years of repairs, however, officials said they have all but ruled that out as a cause. The regular malfunctions have trapped tourists in the 555 foot tall monument numerous time since reopening after the earthquake, reports FOX5.
“There are other factors in play when we have service interruptions,” Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the National Park Service, told FOX5. “When it gets stuck, people are stuck inside there for 40 minutes to an hour in cramped, closed quarters. We couldn’t put visitors or staff at risk by attempting to reopen, knowing it was likely going to happen again.”
Officials with the National Park Service hope to modernize the elevator over the next nine months with a $3 million investment, although they do not yet have specifics on their plan to tackle the repairs or a firm timeline. Officials closed the monument in August to conduct inspections to determine the cause of the familiar breakdowns, reports USA Today.
“Despite the continuing work on the Washington Monument elevator, we have not been able to determine the causes of the ongoing reliability issues,” the National Park Service said in a statement on Facebook. “As a result, we have made the difficult decision not to reopen the Washington Monument until we can modernize the elevator control system. The scope of work to be accomplished while the monument is closed and the duration of the closure are still being determined.”
Many people were shocked Monday to find they could not enter the attraction, which draws nearly 600,000 tourists each year. Officials said they will have more concrete information on the duration of the closure in the coming weeks.
“You would think that it would be in excellent repair and ready to receive visitors,” Morgan Edward, a California tourist, told FOX5. “I’m sure a lot of people were as surprised as I am and maybe a little disappointed.”
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