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A construction crane crosses the south side of the State Capitol Monday, August 3, 2009. (LJS file)

With the 12-year exterior Capitol restoration project complete, in time to welcome new visitors this fall from the Big Ten states, the Capitol Commission is turning its attention elsewhere.

Lincoln's tallest building is about to begin a two-year, $3.7 million elevator renovation project.

No, the four elevators in the state Capitol tower won't get bigger, for those of you who avoid going to the 14th floor for fear claustrophobia might overtake you.

But the 30-year-old elevators -- which measure about 4 1/2 feet by 5 feet wide -- will get updated machinery, controls and technology, Capitol Administrator Bob Ripley told the Nebraska Capitol Commission on Tuesday.

The 1980 technology is antiquated, Ripley said, and soon it will become difficult to find replacement parts.

While the cabs will be unchanged, riders will see new control panels.

Contractors, who have not yet been selected, will take one elevator out of service at a time, so the public and staffers who work in the tower will always have access.

Ripley said the equipment for the four elevators, located in the corners of the tower, far has exceeded its 25- to 30-year life expectancy. That means there will be significantly increased maintenance costs without the renovation, Ripley said.

The elevators will not be made to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, he said, because of the limitations of their location around the edges of the rotunda and historic architectural features.

Most standard-sized wheelchairs can fit into the cabs, however, they cannot turn around once inside.

The project will begin in the next couple of months and take a couple of years to complete. It will make the elevator system more energy efficient, and will reduce maintenance and ensure safety, Ripley said.

The project's cost, which includes $425,000 in professional fees and $3.2 million in construction, is being paid through a statewide building renewal fund, an appropriation from the Legislature and the Capitol Commission budget.

At the meeting, Ripley also noted potential book and documentary projects on the Capitol that are being contemplated.

* The Architectural Foundation of Nebraska is raising money to do a documentary on the Capitol in the 21st Century with NET.

* Bahr Vermeer Haecker Architects consultants are working with Ripley on the possibility of a book about the Capitol's restoration project. Dan Worth, project manager for the project, said fourth-graders from Lincoln's Kahoa Elementary in 1996 sold friendship bracelets they had made to raise money for the project. The architects would like to thank the school children of Nebraska with a book, that would be sent to public libraries across the state, that shows all that went into the restoration over the 12 years.

* The University of Nebraska Press may be updating and reprinting a book, "A Harmony of the Arts: The Nebraska State Capitol."

* A series of DVDs, with enhanced information on the Capitol for Nebraska's many school children who visit, also is being planned.

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Reach JoAnne Young at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com -- You can follow JoAnne's tweets at twitter.com/ljslegislature.

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