After rappelling engineers, what's next for Washington Monument?

Friday - 10/7/2011, 10:41am EDT

Mike Morelli, project manager, NPS Denver Service Center

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By Jack Moore
Federal News Radio

Engineers, who rappelled down the face of the Washington Monument more than 550 feet in the air, have completed their inspection of the monument's exterior, following damage sustained from an earthquake in August.

National Park Service officials said the engineers will next provide a report that will help determine how the monument should be repaired.

Mike Morelli, the project manager with the Denver Service Center for the National Park Service, joined the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris to discuss the repair efforts.

He said the service was able to find a specialized company quickly to get the work done.

"When we first got the call from the park after the earthquake — this was about the day after it happened — ... they said, 'We have a lot of debris coming down. We're not sure what's going on. We need some experts out here,'" Morelli said.

NPS selected engineering contractor Wiss, Janney, Elstner in part, because of its experience with seismic activity, Morelli said.

"So we called them right away," he said, "and said we need to get you out there, like, tonight."

The center fast-tracked an emergency task order with some rough estimates and a maximum not-to-exceed number, he said and teams of contractors completed an interior survey two days after the quake.

They did an interior survey two days after the earthquake.

The exterior survey, which involved engineers rappelling down the monument's side equipped with iPads to map the cracks, began Sept. 26 and wrapped up Wednesday.

While the circumstances were certainly unusual, Morelli said NPS works with a variety of contractors, as well as an even larger array of subcontractors.

WJE specializes in "difficult-access work," he said, working on the domes of buildings and under bridges — "places where it might be difficult to get equipment into," Morelli said. "And they have these folks that are trained climbers that can get underneath there or get up on a difficult structure and then do an inspection."

And the engineers will be back at it in a few weeks to "winterize" the monument, Morelli said.

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