Washington Monument to Reopen May 12

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCWashington.com
    Crews erect scaffolding around the Washington Monument in 2013.

    The Washington Monument is finally set to reopen following extensive repairs, nearly three years after an earthquake rocked the region.

    The monument will reopen May 12, the National Park Service announced Tuesday, with tours beginning that day at 1 p.m. Tickets will be available on a first come, first served basis starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Washington Monument Lodge on 15th Street, between Madison and Jefferson Drives.

    Tour tickets for May 13 and all future dates will become available online at the NPS reservation page, www.recreation.gov, starting April 16 at 10 a.m.

    The monument will be open for extended operating hours, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, through the end of summer.

    When the monument reopens, it will have been 32 months since tourists at the top of the 555-foot obelisk were captured on surveillance video running for the stairs as an earthquake shook the observation room — and the rest of D.C. — on Aug. 23, 2011.

    The monument was closed after many stones near the top were discovered chipped or cracked, and mortar was shaken loose during the 5.8-magnitude quake.

    The quake's epicenter was around Louisa, Va., but the temblor caused damage around D.C., including at Union Station and the National Cathedral.

    Workers spent several months removing scaffolding from the monument after major repairs were completed, but paused with 120 feet of scaffolding left so mortar joints in the lower 20 to 30 feet of the monument could be repointed.

    The massive repair project cost an estimated $15 million. Washington businessman David Rubenstein pledged to pay half the amount, with Congress allocating the rest.

    "The National Park Service has done a spectacular job of repairing the monument, and I hope as many people as possible will soon be able to see the unique view from the top," Rubenstein said.

    Normally the Washington Monument has about 700,000 visitors a year who ride an elevator or climb stairs to the top. The monument was completed in 1884 and was the world's tallest structure for five years until the Eiffel Tower was built.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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