Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Tue, Aug. 04

Tribes pave way for road upgrade

POLACCA-Navajo and Hopi tribal officials want to work together so a 13.7 mile stretch of road from First Mesa to Pinon would be paved. Approximately 20 tribal and county officials met at Hopi High School Sept. 21 to discuss working together to see that the road is paved.

Lester Charley, contract administrator with the Hopi Tribe estimates the paving would cost $3 million for planning and $8-$10 million for the construction. He said they hope to get on the 2002 fiscal year budget for funding.

Navajo Route 65 goes by Hard Rock, Forest Lake, Blue Gap, Whipporwill and Low Mountain. The road is unpaved and known for large potholes.

Hopi Councilman Steve Youvella, representing First Mesa, said with the recent addition of a new medical center in First Mesa officials are concerned about the ability of police and medical vehicles to use N-65. Sports teams that have to travel to Pinon High School to compete in sports are also concerned about the road's condition.

Hopi Jr./Sr. High School Superintendent Paul Reynolds said he is concerned about the safety of the children who must ride on buses on this route, particularly in winter. Ivan Sidney, community service administrator at First Mesa Consolidated Village, added that about 20 percent of the student population at Hopi High School come from the Navajo Reservation and he is concerned about the student's safety as well as the wear and tear on the buses.

"It's 13.7 miles, but it feels like it takes two hours," he said.

Louella Nahsonhoya, director of the Northland Pioneer College Hopi Center, said 60 percent of the enrollment is Navajo and NPC has to send many teachers to Navajo communities near N-65 in order for them to get their instruction.

"The students who come in on those roads complain a lot," she said.

Sidney noted that paving the road would also help with teacher recruitment for several schools that are near this route.

Charley said he knows there is money available, but the question is who needs to go to whom in order to obtain those funds. Funding could come from the federal and state governments. In Arizona, the state often relies on the counties for road paving recommendations.

Efforts to pave this stretch of road have been made before. Sidney said he attempted in the 1980s to get the road paved, along with then-Navajo Chairman Peterson Zah and U.S. S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, but their attempt fell short. Herb Begay, a planner with Hopi BIA Roads, said the road was sixth on the BIA's priority list seven years ago, but dropped out of the top 10 a couple years later. He said his department spends at least 20 percent of their maintenance time working on the road.

The next meeting on the proposed paving of N-6S will be held at 11 a.m. Sept. 28 at Low Mountain Chapter House.

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