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Washington Monument could stay closed into 2014 for repairs


WASHINGTON (Reuters)—The earthquake-damaged Washington Monument could remain closed into 2014 for a repair job priced at $15 million, the National Park Service said on Monday.

The repairs will require the outside of the 555-foot-high (169.2-metre-high) structure, one of Washington's best-known landmarks, to be shrouded with scaffolding. Part of the interior also will need scaffolding, said Carol Johnson, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service.

Bids are to be received by July 31. Work is scheduled to start in September and take 12 to 18 months, she said.

"The best scenario is we open in fall 2013, the worst is 2014," Johnson said.

The marble and granite monument to George Washington, the first U.S. president, was widely damaged by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake on Aug. 23, 2011.

The structure sustained cracks and loosened pieces of stone and lost mortar when it was shaken. The worst damage was at the top, at the four-sided pyramidion.

The monument, which was completed in 1884, gets about 600,000 visitors a year. It has been closed since the quake struck.

Johnson said the estimated $15 million project could require the temporary removal of part or all of the granite plaza surrounding the monument.

On the outside of the pyramidion and Monument shaft, the project will remove loose stone, secure loose pieces of stone with drilled anchors, patch damaged areas and reinstall lightning protection, the Park Service said in a statement.

On the inside, the work will finish repair of cracked stone panels and other pieces and repoint mortar joints.