One of the two 60-passenger cars on the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway descends Mount Roberts in late May. The tram has been closed nearly every day since last Sunday due to mechanical issues, but a company official said the tram is expected to reopen Saturday. (Clarise Larson/ Juneau Empire File)

One of the two 60-passenger cars on the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway descends Mount Roberts in late May. The tram has been closed nearly every day since last Sunday due to mechanical issues, but a company official said the tram is expected to reopen Saturday. (Clarise Larson/ Juneau Empire File)

Tram expected to reopen Saturday after closing for several days for repairs

Mechanical issues force halt of cable cars; Mount Roberts race on Saturday cancelled.

The Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway, which has been closed nearly every day since Sunday due to mechanical issues, is expected to reopen Saturday, a company official said Friday.

A problem with a backup gear assembly resulted in the closure of the tram Sunday and Monday, with it reopening Tuesday for the Fourth of July holiday, said Steven Sahlender, vice president of operations for Goldbelt’s Alaska Group. A subsequent problem with the braking system failing to release properly forced the tram to close again midway through Wednesday.

“We could run it in an emergency, but we didn’t want to get to more of an emergency than it needed to be,” he said.

The uncertain day-to-day status of the tram this week resulted in the cancellation of the Goldbelt Tram Mount Roberts Trail Run scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Linda Kruger, the race director, said Friday that the 3.5-mile race that ascends about 1,800 feet to near the tram’s top terminal — with participants then using race-supplied passes to ride down — has been rescheduled for Aug. 26.

“We have to have a sure thing,” she said.

The closure of the two-car tram, which opened in 1996 and has an official uphill capacity of 1,050 people per hour, occurred during the peak of summer tourism season. Notices at the tram’s official Facebook page — citing closure factors such as “unforeseen circumstances” and “safety is our first priority” — were posted during the past week, as was an announcement it was open July 4.

Sahlender said workers were able to resolve the gear problem by removing the faulty mechanism and operating the cars electronically. But on Wednesday operators were “reading an abnormal indication” with the braking system, although “when the car was running it did fine.”

“We’re taking the rest of the day to finish some other maintenance,” he said.

Kruger first said she noticed closed signs at the tram Tuesday and again on Wednesday night, then on Thursday night a friend called to say a sign was posted announcing the tram was closed indefinitely. She called the tram office Friday morning trying to find out if it was likely to reopen in time for the race.

“They said ‘you’d better postpone it,’” she said.

Kruger said she is emailing people who have registered for the race to let them know about the new date, refunds of race fees will be offered, and she will be at the designated starting point Saturday morning to alert any people who show up.

“We have six to eight people coming off the cruise ship and obviously they won’t be able to do it on Aug. 26,” she said, adding “for the people in town we will offer to roll them over (to Aug. 26) if that’s what they want.”

A total of 22 people had registered for the race as of Friday, with an estimated 20 to 25 people participating in last year’s race, Kruger said. The race last year was the first in-person after since 2019 due the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kruger said Aug. 26 is the first date that doesn’t conflict with other local races and that she is in town to serve as its director.

“Hopefully it will be a beautiful day like today,” she said, referring to sunny skies and above-average temperatures on Friday that are forecast to continue Saturday.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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