Work starts on Carls­bad’s el­e­va­tors

The caverns’ large­ca­pac­ity cars should be run­ning by May


CARLS­BAD — The two 16-per­son pri­mary el­e­va­tors that carry visi­tors 750 feet into Carls­bad Caverns Na­tional Park’s un­der­ground will be ready for use by May 2018, ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease from the park.

First built in 1955, the pri­mary lift sys­tem was shut down in No­vem­ber 2015, when the mo­tor shaft sheared off, leav­ing the el­e­va­tor car sus­pended un­der­ground.

Work be­gan this week to re­pair and in­stall el­e­va­tor guide rails, aimed at mod­ern­iz­ing the pri­mary el­e­va­tors, the re­lease said.

A new mo­tor and cars will also be in­stalled.

Cal­i­for­nia-based Tu­tor Perini Corp. was awarded a $4.7 mil­lion con­tract for the work, which is on sched­ule, the re­lease says.

“We are pleased that the el­e­va­tor project is un­der­way that will pro­vide visi­tors with safe and re­li­able trans­port into and out of the cav­ern,” said park Su­per­in­ten­dent Doug Neigh­bor.

Since the pri­mary el­e­va­tors were de­com­mis­sioned, visi­tors to the caverns ride up and down us­ing two eight-per­son sec­ondary el­e­va­tors.

A project to mod­ern­ize the sec­ondary el­e­va­tors, Neigh­bor said, is “many years off” and de­pen­dent on fed­eral fund­ing.

But for the pri­mary el­e­va­tors, Neigh­bor said, the project should be com­pleted be­fore the park’s busy sum­mer sea­son.

Many visi­tors to the park opt to walk down into the cav­ern via a nat­u­ral en­trance, Neigh­bor said.

But get­ting back up is another story.

Neigh­bor es­ti­mated waits to exit could be up to an hour with­out the pri­mary el­e­va­tors.

“There usu­ally isn’t a long line go­ing in, but a long line go­ing out,” he said. “Usu­ally, peo­ple choose to walk in the nat­u­ral way, but few choose to go out that way.”

The next phase in the project, Neigh­bor said, is a de­mo­li­tion to re­move ex­ist­ing equip­ment.

Next is the in­stal­la­tion of the guide rails, mo­tors and cars, with ser­vice re­stored in six months.

“It’s a fairly quick sched­ule,” Neigh­bor said. “They’re go­ing to be work­ing fast and fu­ri­ous on this one. It’s our No. 1 pri­or­ity to get up and in­crease the ca­pac­ity of get­ting folks in and out.”


A main­te­nance man works on a dis­abled el­e­va­tor at Carls­bad Caverns in the sum­mer of 2016. Of­fi­cials say work has be­gun on mod­ern­iz­ing the pri­mary el­e­va­tor sys­tem at the park. The work is sched­uled to be com­pleted in May.

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