Capitol Dome, sheathed in scaffolding, moves into next phase of repair

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WASHINGTON — Sheathed in scaffolding, the Capitol Dome looks less like a soaring symbol of American democracy these days than it does some giant Erector Set shining in the sun.

That counts as progress, though, and officials announced on Tuesday the next installment of a $60 million repair is ready to begin.

The 52 miles of scaffolding pipe and two miles of decking will allow repair crews access to the dome at all levels, from the 36 columns at its base to the Statue of Freedom at its peak.

Next, according to the Architect of the Capitol's website, 12,800 inches of cracked cast iron will be repaired, and more than a dozen layers of old paint removed. Decorative ornaments will be repaired or in some cases replaced.

Then 1,215 gallons of paint will be applied in three coats — the last of which is "Dome White."

The cast iron dome — actually a pair of them nestled inside one another and connected by cast iron braces — is more than 150 years old. The last restoration was completed in 1959 and 1960.

Stephen T. Ayers, the Architect of the Capitol, told reporters invited to a rooftop news conference in cold, blustery weather than he hoped the current job would be good for 75 to 100 years.

So far, he said, it is on schedule and on budget, and should be completed in time for the next presidential inaugural, on Jan. 20, 2017.

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