Contractor chosen for Washington Monument repair

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Washington Monument worker with ropes

Member of “Difficult Access Team” attaches ropes to the top of the Washington Monument to survey damage caused during earthquake, Washington, DC in 2011. (AP photo)

WASHINGTON (AP) – The National Park Service named a Massachusetts contractor Wednesday to repair the Washington Monument’s earthquake damage, though it may take two more months before work begins at the National Mall site.

Perini Management Services Inc. of Framingham, Mass., beat out two other bidders to win a $9.6 million contract that includes extensive repairs to the monument’s stonework. It will involve building massive scaffolding around the 555-foot-tall monument, sealing cracks inside and out, repointing the mortar, cleaning the exterior and strengthening weak spots with metal brackets.

The total cost of repairs, including work already completed, is $15 million.

Federal officials said the contractor’s parent company, Los Angeles-based Tutor Perini Corp., was the prime contractor for the construction of the Ronald Reagan Building, Washington’s largest federal building. The contractor’s team also includes firms involved in a restoration of the monument completed in 2000.

“We are again one step closer to getting this important landmark reopened to our visitors,” said Robert Vogel, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks.

The marble and granite obelisk has been closed to the public since a 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook the region on Aug. 23, 2011. The upper portion of the monument sustained large cracks when it shook violently during the quake. It will likely remain closed to visitors until 2014.

At a gift store nearby, visitors still ask why the monument is closed and when it will reopen, a worker said.

Maryann Albert, a nurse from Philadelphia, was riding her bicycle with her husband near the monument Wednesday but didn’t know it was still closed.
“I keep thinking, one of these days I should come down and go up in it,” she said.
It would help to have a sign explaining the monument to George Washington is closed, she said. Instead, yellow tape at the base reads “Police Line: Do Not Cross.”

The monument normally has about 700,000 visitors a year who ride an elevator or climb stairs to the top.

Park service project manager Michael Morelli said gaining access to the tall monument is the most difficult portion of the project. The repair work is relatively easy.
The park service may add extra metal brackets to some stone panels that are similar to those that cracked to provide extra support in case of a future earthquake.

Within about 60 days, work will begin at the site to start building scaffolding. That alone will take four to five months, said Brian Labbe, who will serve as construction manager for Perini Management.
Scaffolding also will likely be built inside the monument’s top pyramidion, where some of the worst damage was found.

Once work begins, the project will take 12 to 18 months to complete, officials said.

Congress allocated $7.5 million to pay for part of the repairs. In January, Washington businessman David Rubenstein pledged another $7.5 million.

The monument was completed in 1884 and was the world’s tallest structure until 1889, when the Eiffel Tower was built. Vogel said it remains the tallest freestanding stone structure in the world.

“The monument,” he said, “is one of a kind.”

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