WASHINGTON (ABC7) — Memorial Day 2016 will be busy in the Nation's Capital. And the National Park Service is hoping the elevator in the Washington Monument holds out.
A 7 ON YOUR SIDE Investigation has learned in the past 12 months, the elevator has malfunctioned 20 times leading to the monument's closure.
Most of those closures never made the news. They either happened near the end of the day or didn't trap anyone at the top. But the I-Team learned the Washington Monument is now closing once every couple weeks because of the elevator. And in his first media interview, the man in charge of maintaining the elevator, tells ABC 7, it needs to be replaced.
Washington, D.C. is a city of symbols. And none stand as tall as the Washington Monument. Every year, millions gather to view it, take a picture, or go to the top. But over the last year, many of those trips never happened, as the monument's sole elevator keeps breaking.
"I probably won't be back in a while. So it's kind of disappointing," said Kyle Andersen, a Wisconsin tourist, during a recent outage.
For 25 years, the monument's elevator has been maintained by Jim Snider of Quality Elevator. His company also has contracts at the White House, State Department, Federal Reserve and others.
"Not many elevators are constantly loaded when they run," said Snider. "I see this elevator being replaced soon."
In his first media interview, Snider told 7 ON YOUR SIDE the elevator's problems are likely a combination of age and the 2011 earthquake. For two-and-a-half years the elevator didn't run as the monument was being repaired. Meanwhile, cracks allowed moisture inside which corroded the electronics.
Now, it's back to running 250 daily trips, straight up 500 feet. And it's faltering.
"It's completely frustrating. We know it's frustrating to our visitors, but it's frustrating to the staff as well," stated Mike Litterst with the U.S. National Parks Service.
The I-Team did some digging. In the year leading up to the earthquake, the Washington Monument closed 11 times due to the elevator. Most outages lasted a few hours. But in the last 12 months, it's closed 20 times - often for days, or up to a week.
In about a year, Snider sees a new elevator being installed, which would cost $1 million and close the monument for another six months.
"Our job right now is to keep the elevator safe. Keep the riding public safe. And reduce the inconvenience as much as we can," concluded Snider.
The previous elevator in the monument lasted 30 years. The current elevator started running 15 years ago.
The National Park Service is seeking another elevator company to inspect the monument and offer a second opinion.