Washington Monument scaffolding begins to come down

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - For the first time since March, a portion of the Washington Monument - however small - was free from its scaffolding.

At a height of 550 feet over the National Mall, crews started Tuesday the delicate and dangerous work of removing the scaffolds that have encased the Washington Monument since the spring.

The exterior walls of the obelisk are now 85 percent repaired more than two years after the 2011 earthquake exposed more than 150 cracks in the structure. It's now the job of a Massachusetts crew to scale the monument every day to help disassemble their workplace.

"It's important to do some of the work now, because once the weather turns, you can't do some of the epoxy that you can do when it's warmer," National Park Service spokesperson Carol Johnson said.

NPS officials have reaffirmed throughout the construction process that the monument would be open to visitors again in the spring of 2014.

It'll take three months to clear all of the scaffolding from the Washington Monument, and with the repair work on interior walls halfway done and some landscaping yet to be completed, the work will continue.

Beyond the repair work, crews made one more improvement to the monument - they installed two rods to the top as part of a new lightning detection system. It replaced decades-old equipment that previously did the job.