Capitol dome restoration project underway

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - In just a matter of months, the Capitol's decades-old dome will be shrouded in scaffolding. A $60 million dome restoration project is now underway. The most recognizable part of it will come this spring when the exterior work gets underway.

"Getting all that scaffolding here, lifting it up to the roof of the dome and then getting it installed and taken back down is just a massive logistical effort," explained Stephen Ayers, an architect.

Engineers say that while the structure is sound, the cracks pose a real problem.{ }

"Water can get in and cause continued problems," Ayers says. "Not just rusting, but pose a threat to the frescoes and the paintings in the rotunda."

There are an estimated 1,300 cracks in the Capitol. More than 100 broken pieces have been removed. The cast iron dome has not been repaired in 50 years. It will take two years to complete.

"If it needs to be fixed, it needs to be fixed," says Sara DeLenge.

Most construction will take place at night and on the weekend. Public tours will still be conducted except for a few weeks when a protective canopy is installed in the rotunda.