WASHINGTON — Crews will start removing the scaffolding from the Washington Monument starting in less than two weeks, and the monument is on target to reopen to the public in the spring, the National Park Service said Thursday.

The scaffolding was erected to allow crews to repair the monument, which was damaged when a 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook the region in August 2011. It has been closed to the public ever since.

Exterior work on the monument is about 80 percent complete, the park service said. Stones have been patched up in more than 150 places, and cracks have been filled at the top of the 555-foot obelisk, where most of the earthquake damage was concentrated.

Repairs are expected to cost $15 million. Washington businessman David Rubenstein has pledged to pay for half of that amount, with Congress allocating the rest.

The scaffolding will begin to come down the week of Nov. 11, the park service said. Sunday night will be the last time that the decorative lights on the scaffolding will be turned on.

“We are excited that this brings us one step closer to reopening,” Bob Vogel, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, said in a statement.

The monument normally has about 700,000 visitors a year who ride an elevator or climb stairs to the top. Completed in 1884, it was the world’s tallest structure for five years until the Eiffel Tower was built. It’s still the tallest structure in Washington and the tallest freestanding stone structure in the world.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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