After meeting with National Park Service officials, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., is certain the Washington Monument elevator is safe to ride, following a string of electrical issues that led to recent closures.
“After hearing today’s briefing I would not hesitate to bring my 3-year-old grandson and his brother, who is two months old, to ride the elevator to the top of the monument,” Norton said in a statement. “I hope that the thousands of visitors who come to the nation’s capital during this busy tourist season are also reassured.”
In late May, the Washington Monument closed for several days after a power outage shut down the elevator, and also caused a mechanical alignment issue with the elevator. Norton demanded a meeting with NPS officials to discuss the closures as well as possible long-term solutions.
On June 19, Norton met with National Mall and Memorial Parks Superintendent Karen Cucurullo, Deputy Superintendent Sean Kennealy, Chief of Maintenance Joseph Salvatore and Public Affairs Officer Michael Litterst. Norton was assured the elevator is safe, but the officials also told her they do not know the exact cause of the electrical surges or outages.
According to Norton’s statement, NPS officials told her the electrical surge is “not an internal issue with the monument or the elevator itself, but rather with the external power source not controlled by NPS.” The park service has set up four monitors to collect data if there is another issue.
In the event of another outage, the elevator, which can carry up to 18 passengers and operates 13 hours a day in the summer, will bring passengers to the nearest level. A park ranger is in the elevator at all times and would help escort passengers off the elevator.
After the meeting, Litterst, the NPS spokesman, sent out a statement from NPS noting, “The National Park Service and our professional, contracted technicians continue to monitor the power and electrical service that caused the Washington Monument elevator closure earlier this month. We recognize that the interruption in service is an inconvenience, especially during the busy summer season, however when problems do arise, closures are necessary to ensure the continued safety of our visitors and employees.”
Litterst said in an interview with CQ Roll Call on June 2 that the recent elevator issues did not appear to be related to the elevator glitches that occurred when the monument reopened in April 2014.
The recent elevator issues were related to an electrical outage at the entire site, not just on the elevator. And in April 2014, the elevator malfunction was due to the fact that the elevator had not been used in more than two years. The Washington Monument closed in August 2011 after an earthquake led to 150 cracks in the structure.