PROSPECT (AP) – The elevator that takes visitors to the 420-foot-high observatory atop the new Penobscot Narrows Bridge has malfunctioned three times since it opened last month, and state officials want the problem solved.

In all three malfunctions, people inside the observatory had to walk down 42 stories of steps to get out. In the last failure on Sunday, riders were trapped inside the elevator for half an hour.

State officials and a representative from Stanley Elevator met Wednesday in Augusta to discuss how to fix the problem. The company said it would increase its oversight for its weekly maintenance and daily checks.

The failures are a part of the elevator’s normal breaking-in process, said bridge project spokeswoman Carol Morris. But with the bridge being a tourist attraction, the malfunctions are “unacceptable,” she said.

“We don’t have safety issues, we have inconvenience issues and that’s what we’re working to fix,” Morris said.

The Penobscot Narrows Bridge opened to motorists in late December to replace the deteriorating Waldo-Hancock Bridge across the Penobscot River between Prospect and Verona Island.

The observatory on top of a tower at the west end of the bridge opened on May 19, offering panoramic 360-degree views as far away as Mount Katahdin. The cost of admission to the observatory and nearby Fort Knox is $5 for adults and $3 for children.

The elevator malfunctioned on its second day of operation, and again on May 28. In both instances, people were able to exit the elevator after it stopped at the base of the tower.

On Sunday, the elevator came to a stop about two feet above the tower base, trapping riders inside until a repairman could be summoned.

Morris said as the elevator cable stretches, or “seasons,” it’s apparently sending signals to the elevator computer that something’s wrong when in fact everything is fine. The signals cause the elevator to descend to the lobby level.

Through Sunday, more than 7,500 people had visited the observatory, Morris said. The elevator has been operating at capacity on weekends and at about 50 percent capacity on weekdays.


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