WASHINGTON - The weather is warm and the cherry blossoms will soon be in full bloom, but spring tourists to the nation's capital may be disappointed by closed doors and eyesores on the National Mall, which is being ripped up for renovation.
The Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial -- the site of many historical moments, such as Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream Speech," -- is undergoing a major makeover. Water from the old, leaky pool has been drained and it remains a construction site.
The $30 million project, slated to be finished by the summer, is designed to address a wide range of issues related to the pool, including poor water circulation, which often caused it to appear murky.
"Construction projects are necessary," says Bill Line, a spokesman for the National Park Service. "The previous reflecting pool lasted for 83 years. From a construction standpoint, most people would argue it served its life."
On the east side of the Mall, near the U.S. Capitol, the grass is chewed up for turf replacement. The work is expected to last into the summer.
"The work includes the installation of engineered soil medium to resist soil compaction, durable turf varieties and granite edging," a sign hanging from perimeter fencing reads.
"New sustainable systems to improve soil drainage and collect stormwater for irrigation will reduce the use of potable water and help improve regional water quality," it reads.
In the heart of the Mall, the Washington Monument remains closed to visitors. It is still being repaired, following the earthquake that rattled Washington and the Mid-Atlantic region last August.
Tourists will be "reasonable in their expectations" when they visit Washington, Line says.
"It's not going to last forever," he says of the construction projects.
In addition to a new water circulation system, new sidewalks are being installed next to the reflecting pool in place of dirt paths, to be flanked by new lights and benches. The project also includes completion of greater perimeter security for the Lincoln Memorial at the west end of the pool.
Construction has also been taking place at Union Station, another Washington landmark that receives lots of visitors, just a few blocks north of the U.S. Capitol. When the project is completed, the rail station will have a new walkway at its east end, as well as renovated retail storefronts.
WTOP's Andrew Mollenbeck and Mitchell Miller contributed to this report.
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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
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