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Scaffolding that Pittsburgh wants is free from D.C.

Monday, May 12, 2014, 11:03 p.m.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto's dream of getting towering scaffolding from the Washington Monument could hinge on Tuesday night's playoff game between the Penguins and New York Rangers.

“Does he want to bet it on (Tuesday night's) game?” asked Kevin O'Callaghan, whose New York company rented the scaffolding to the National Park Service for a $15 million repair job on the monument that ended on Monday when the landmark reopened to visitors.

O'Callaghan, a diehard Rangers fan, was joking, but he left open the possibility that Pittsburgh could acquire the scaffolding.

“I wouldn't want to give the impression that we would give it away, but for the right situation, we would try to be helpful in a way to make it happen,” said O'Callaghan, president and CEO of Universal Builders Supply Inc. of New Rochelle.

Calling it a “work of art” during a December visit with other mayors to the White House, Peduto asked President Obama to donate the scaffolding to Pittsburgh. His idea is to erect it on the North Shore to mark the western terminus of the Great Allegheny Passage, a biking trail that runs to Washington. Local iron workers and a trucking company are lined up to transport and build the scaffolding.

The trail could “begin at the Washington Monument and end at the Washington Monument,” Peduto said at the time.

Peduto spokesman Tim McNulty said the mayor is still interested in getting the scaffolding, but he could not detail how that might happen.

“We expect to have communications with the company on the idea,” he said.

The Park Service reopened the 130-year-old monument for a first time since a 5.8-magnitude earthquake damaged it on Aug. 23, 2011. Contractors repaired more than 150 cracks and sealed the national landmark during the restoration.

Philanthropist and businessman David Rubenstein, co-founder of private equity firm The Carlyle Group, chipped in $7.5 million to cover half the cost.

Dozens of sightseers lined up early for tickets to enter the 555-foot-tall marble obelisk, which has an observation deck at the 500-foot level reached via a 70-second elevator ride. About 650,000 people visited the monument in 2010, the last full year it was open, according to the Park Service.

O'Callaghan said workers finished removing the scaffolding several weeks ago.

Some of it is in use for a restoration of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan, he said, but “most of it's in our yard up in Red Hook, New York.”

This isn't the first time the Park Service called upon Universal Builders to provide scaffolding for monument repairs.

The 37 miles of aluminum tubing that encased the monument were designed by award-winning architects Michael Graves and Associates of Princeton, N.J., and Universal Builders for a 1998 renovation project.

The design included a blue, semi-transparent mesh fabric attached to the tubing. Hundreds of lights lit the structure at night.

It was made to emulate the look of more than 20,000 stone blocks that make up the monument. Multiple cities wanted the scaffolding when it was removed in 2000 to build a replica of the monument, according to the architects.

“In the end, none were built,” firm founder Michael Graves said in an email. “Now, it would make me very happy if the city of Pittsburgh was able to permanently display the scaffolding design on its terrific waterfront.”

O'Callaghan said it would take more than the outcome of a game for him to part with it.

“We wouldn't donate it completely, but we would certainly work to make something happen if it were under the right circumstances,” he said.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or The Associated Press contributed to this report.




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