Visitors to New York Harbor may be one away from scaling Lady Liberty's 354 steps.
If all goes according to plan, tourists be able to take in the stunning panorama from the statue's crown by America’s 233rd birthday.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who is in charge of such matters for the Obama administration, said Tuesday that he hopes to have the iconic destination open by July 4, 2009.
“We will endeavor to do everything we can," Salazar told Reuters.
Before Sept. 11, 2001 tour groups regularly ascended the copper-clad statue, which was presented to the U.S. by France in 1886. But security risks prompted the National Parks Service, a wing of the Interior Department, to close the monument to the public.
The base, pedestal, and observation deck re-opened to the public in August 2004, but the crown remained closed.
There is one more hurdle to clear before Lady Liberty can once again host visitors in her attic. Salazar is waiting on a security assessment that will mainly deal with capacity issues.
“We may have it opened up to a smaller group of people,” Salazar said.
A 1999 internal study had found that if there were a fire in the pedestal, the interior of the statue would act like a chimney with smoke suffocating anyone on the stairs. The narrow spiral stairway first built for worker access was a danger for anyone suffering an injury or other medical event, such as a heart attack.
"Those are the kinds of things we're looking at with our aspiration being that we do have the Statue of Liberty opened up," Salazar said.
More than 3 million people visited Lady Liberty in 2007.