Corrosion Conundrum: National Park Service Launches Plan for Gateway Arch

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Then-Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama (D-IL) arrives at an October 2008 campaign rally at The Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

REUTERS/Jim Young

Concerns around America’s icon of Westward Expansion are growing.

Approaching its 45th birthday, the Gateway Arch still stands as one of the nation’s most prized structures. Yet some engineering reports paint an unpromising picture for the landmark, as it suffers from corrosion and discoloration to its exterior.

This St. Louis Post-Dispatch graphic shows the crux of the Gateway Arch’s conundrum. Without a solid interior, the monument relies on a combination of stainless and carbon steel to keep itself standing.

Earlier studies pinpointed a host of problems, from corroding staircases to water damage. But the National Parks Service had limited resources to determine the full extent of necessary repairs.

“This is not yet a health and safety issue,” Frank Mares, the deputy superintendent of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, told the St. Louis paper on August 22. “(The report) says learn more about what’s going on. It’s something that requires further study.”

As of Monday, that further study was confirmed. The AP reports that the Post-Dispatch stories helped pave the way for an accord, via the hiring of an Illinois-based structural engineering firm. Officials told the wire service that plans had been underway prior to the paper’s story, but a contract is now officially in place to move the structural foray forward.

When it comes to infrastructure inconveniences, the Gateway Arch is not alone. The Statue of Liberty is in the midst of planning improvements for visitor safety, which could close the interior for parts of 2011.

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