Statue of Liberty to Get Fire Safety Makeover

The Statue of Liberty is about to get a makeover to improve fire safety for visitors, but will have to close in the process.

Officials of the National Park Service say the 22-story landmark will shut down for nine months to a year, so improvements can be made, including adding a second staircase to Lady Liberty's pedestal.

The upgrade will begin after Oct. 12, 2011, when the statue celebrates its 125th anniversary.

The $26 million project will add fire-proof staircases, elevators and exits, David Luchsinger, superintendent of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, tells Reuters.

"It's a monumental task, to say the least," Luchsinger says.

Currently a staircase leads up to the statue's pedestal, with a narrow, spiraling staircase continuing to an observation deck in Lady Liberty's crown, 354 steps up in total. There's also an elevator to the pedestal.

In July, a false alarm required hundreds of tourists to be evacuated down the single staircase, but plans for safety upgrades were underway long before that, Luchsinger says.

Other major security upgrades have also closed Lady Liberty to visitors in recent years.

During next year's closure, the park surrounding the statue will remain open. More than 5 million visitors to New York tour the popular attraction each year.

Photo, koshyk, flickr
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