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.