The Pennsylvania Capitol’s infamous – and often malfunctioning – East Wing escalators are getting a long-awaited upgrade.
The escalators, which are prone to mechanical issues, have become the butt of jokes, the inspiration for memes and have, at times, irked Capitol regulars and visitors alike. However, the state Department of General Services said Wednesday that the escalators will be replaced with a new grand staircase as part of a renovation project in the Capitol’s East Wing that will cost between $3 million and $4 million.
The department said replacing the escalators with a staircase will eliminate maintenance costs, with DGS noting that it spent close to $250,000 on maintenance and equipment upgrades over the last five years. The department added that the staircase, which will connect the East Wing concourse with the first floor of the Capitol, will provide a “safer, more reliable evacuation route in case of an emergency.”
Department of General Services Secretary Reggie McNeil said in a statement that the renovations will improve access within the Capitol while providing savings for the state.
“Over the years, the escalators have been plagued by frequent failures, requiring significant maintenance and downtime, and costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in repair costs. This renovation project and the installation of a new, large group elevator will increase access to and from the East Wing and first floor of the Capitol building and better serve the public and the public servants who visit the building every day,” McNeil said.
The renovations will also include the installation of a 20-person, ADA-compliant group elevator, replacement of the East Wing rotunda’s existing – but nonfunctional – neon light system with an LED light system, as well as several improvements to the Capitol cafeteria.
The 20-person group elevator will be built first, prior to the removal of the escalators, so that large groups can move between the East Wing concourse and the Capitol’s first floor while construction is underway. The new elevator will replace the existing spiral staircase in the East Wing rotunda, according to the department.
The first step of the project is the demolition of that staircase, which is set to begin in July. Construction of the new elevator shaft is set to take place between August and October, while installation of the elevator will occur between October 2024 and February 2025.
According to the timeline provided by the department, the escalators will be demolished between March and May 2025, and the grand staircase will be built between May and August 2025.