Now that Congress raised the debt ceiling for a short time, restoration work will be getting under way on the Capitol’s roof.
The Architect of the Capitol says there are more than 1,000 cracks in the Capitol dome right now. The two-year restoration project on the 150-year-old structure begins next month.
The last time the dome underwent restoration was 1959-60.
“As stewards of the Capitol for the Congress and the American people, we must conduct this critical work to save the dome,” said Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers. “From a distance the dome looks magnificent, thanks to the hard work of our employees. On closer look, under the paint, age and weather have taken its toll and the AOC needs to make repairs to preserve the dome.”
Over the next two years visitors will see the dome encased in scaffolding. Scaffold towers and scaffold bridging will also be constructed on the west side of the U.S. Capitol Building to help move materials to the work areas.
Inside, a canopy will be installed to shield visitors from any falling debris. “The configuration allows the Apotheosis of Washington, in the eye of the Rotunda, to be seen throughout the restoration process,” the AOC said. “A covered walkway through the Rotunda is required as the canopy system is installed at the beginning of the project, as well as at the end of the project.”
Officials hope to finish the $10 million-plus project before the next president is inaugurated in 2017. The project went to bid in January even though contractors were warned the funds weren’t available at the time to pay them.
The dome consists of a whopping 9.9 million pounds of cast and wrought iron held onto the rotunda by 5.2 million pounds of brick masonry.