Recent elevator issues that caused the closure of the Washington Monument have drawn the ire of Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.
"Elevator outages during the peak tourist season render the Washington Monument off limits," Norton said in a statement Tuesday. "[The National Park Service] has told me that the problem is suspected to have been caused by numerous shutdowns of the elevator due to power outages, but this newly refurbished elevator began to malfunction almost as soon as the Monument reopened a year ago." On Monday, NPS announced the Washington Monument will be closed "at least" until Thursday "to repair a mechanical alignment issue with the elevator." NPS noted that the alignment issue could be a symptom of the multiple elevator shutdowns last week.
Norton, who noted that the monument hosts more than 2,400 visitors a day, said she will meet with NPS officials after the elevator is fixed to discuss the "long-term condition of the elevator" as well as any steps that are being taken to prevent future breakdowns.
The monument was closed last week due to a loss of power in the elevator on May 27. It reopened at noon on May 29. NPS spokesman Mike Litterst wrote an email announcing the reopening: "Electricians and elevator technicians have completed testing of the elevator's electrical system and determined it is not subject to a repeat of the power failure that occurred Wednesday evening."
But the elevator lost power again Sunday evening, prompting the most recent closure. Litterst said in a phone interview Tuesday that NPS technicians are still working to determine the cause of the recent electrical issues. He said when the power went out last week, the system did not indicate what was causing the failure. He said typically if a circuit breaks or a fuse blows, then electricians know what to fix. But without a reading, they could not determine the cause.
"Without having anything to fix last week we weren’t able to determine the specific cause,” Litterst said. He noted electricians were now going through a "fairly lengthy checklist" to determine possible causes.
In her statement Tuesday, Norton said the elevator outages could point to broader problems with the elevator, noting that the elevator malfunctioned when it reopened in April 2014. "I am asking NPS officials to look beyond the power outages, an obvious troubling factor, and propose solutions for preventing further elevator malfunctions,” she said.
But Litterst said there is no indication that recent outages are related to prior issues, which also included a power outage for the entire site in December. “What we’re experiencing now is no way related to the previous issues,” he said.
Litterst explained the glitches when the monument reopened last year were related to the fact that the elevator had not been used in more than two years as crews repaired the cracks caused by the August 2011 earthquake. The December issue was related to an outage at the entire site, not just the elevator.
He noted that NPS would respond to Norton's request for a meeting and would address her concerns.
"Right now we’re focused on the immediate issues at hand," Litterst said. "And again, until we’re able to determine the cause, that will let us know whether we’ve got a systemic problem that needs to be addressed.”
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