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WASHINGTON MONUMENT REOPENS AFTER RENOVATION

The venerable Washington Monument, which serves as a sort of granite-and-marble exclamation point for the National Mall's historic sights, reopened to the public Friday after a months-long security renovation.

All tickets for the day were claimed early, according to U.S. National Park Service spokesman Bill Line.

With the heavy tourist season looming and the cherry blossom trees in bloom, the monument will resume its place as a top attraction for visitors to the capital.

The more than 555-foot obelisk had been closed since September, when a $15 million security project began. The security improvements included vehicle barriers and a new lighting system. Visitors will now be able -- from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week -- to travel by elevator to the top of the monument, but the area surrounding it will remain off limits until late June.

The reopening of the monument coincided with the Cherry Blossom Festival, which is expected to bring about 1 million people to the city.