CARLSBAD CAVERNS NATIONAL PARK — The primary elevators at the Carlsbad Caverns National Park Visitors Center went back online July 2, just before the busy Fourth of July holiday.
But on August 6, National Park Service employees and visitors to the Caverns celebrated the project’s completion with a ribbon cutting.
“We tried our best and so did the contractor and we want to make sure it’s right, and safe, for all the visitors here,” said Doug Neighbor, superintendent of the park.
“As with anything we think it is proper to celebrate success and so that’s what today is about.”
The elevators carry 16 passengers each, 750 feet into the underground cafeteria. From there visitors can explore the cave and its formations.
Neighbor said most visitor’s experience begins with a descent into the cave via the elevator which now has ADA compliant features, a sound barrier that makes the ride quieter and safety measures that allow for various rescue methods should they be needed.
Should visitors become trapped in a stalled car, rescuers now have the option to drop a rescue basket and perform a car-to-car rescue in addition to a rope rescue. 
Three visitors from Michigan were rescued in March when a car stalled 10 feet from the bottom of the elevator shaft; They were rescued by personnel who rapelled into the shaft and extracted the by rope.
Neighbor said that an elevator rescue team, consisting of emergency personnel from both the City of Carlsbad and Eddy County, working on conjunction with the National Park Service, have been trained in elevator rescues.
He hopes, however, that with the completion of primary elevator project emergency situations will be few.
“We built in as many safeties as possible, for as many scenarios as possible,” Neighbor said. 
The ribbon cutting featured representatives of Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich. 
“The Carlsbad caverns are a crown jewel of the U.S. park system and an economic engine for Eddy County and the region. I’m glad I could support efforts to replace the broken, antiquated elevator system with one that will ensure the public can access this natural marvel,” said Sen. Tom Udall in an emailed statement.
“As a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee that sets the budget for the Interior Department and the Park Service, I worked to secure the funding necessary to repair the elevator and bring this system into the 21st century, keeping the caverns accessible for the visitors who come from around the world to see this spectacular park.”
The park’s main elevators were first taken out of service in 2015 when a motor sheared off, suspending a car in the 750-foot elevator shaft. 
More:Carlsbad Caverns: Elevator system back online after three years
In December 2017, a contract for construction was awarded to tutor Perini. The project was originally slated for completion by Memorial Day but delays pushed the opening to July.
A project to modernize the secondary elevators, which carried passengers to the Caverns’ underground cafeteria while the primary elevators were offline, is expected to begin in 2021.
More:Caverns: Secondary elevators could cost $18 million, project to start in 2021
Jessica Onsurez can be reached at 575-628-5531, or @JussGREAT on Twitter.