The Capitol Rotunda will close for six weeks this summer for scaffolding installation as part of the $60 million Dome restoration project.
According to a recent update on the Architect of the Capitol’s website, the Rotunda will be closed from July 25 through Labor Day on Sept. 7 so workers can install scaffolding to repair the Rotunda’s interior. Damage to the Dome has caused water to leak through the more than 1,000 cracks onto the Rotunda, damaging the interior. The closure is likely to come as school groups and tourists descend upon D.C., many of whom take a Capitol tour, where the Rotunda is a highlight. But the Capitol Visitor Center is working to modify the tour route.
“The CVC is notifying tour operators ahead of time about the temporary closure of the Rotunda so that they can inform their clients,” Sharon Gang, a CVC spokesperson, wrote in an email to CQ Roll Call. “There will be some modifications to the tour route, and there will be some special programming such as interpretive encounters in Exhibition Hall and Emancipation Hall that will be offered during the closure period.”
Gang explained the “interpretive encounters” are opportunities to interact with the Capitol, such as a program where visitors can see first-hand the materials used in the Dome restoration project. Gang also said the CVC is working on developing grounds tours. The CVC made similar modifications when the Rotunda closed for two weeks last April, adding outdoor tours and educational and interactive sessions.
But tourists will see a few changes to the Rotunda before it closes. Starting in mid-July, workers will begin installing floor and art protection. When the Rotunda closes on July 25, workers will take the next several weeks to install scaffolding throughout the Rotunda, with most of the work being done at night and on weekends. The scaffolding will remain inside the Rotunda until the summer of 2016.
This work is part of the final phase of the Dome restoration project. According to 2015 legislative branch appropriations, the phase costs more than $21 million. The AOC website indicates the Rotunda interior work will be “to remove hazardous materials (such as lead paint), restore ironwork, upgrade electrical and mechanical systems, install new lighting and repaint it to historically appropriate colors.”
The restoration is set to be complete by the January 2017 presidential inauguration. At a March 17 Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers assured lawmakers the project was on time and on budget.
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