State Transportation Board approves $28 million for N20 detour paving project
PHOENIX - While the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) continues its geotechnical investigation on the U.S. 89 landslide and works on the long-term solution to restore the damaged highway, the State Transportation Board approved $28 million to pave Navajo Route 20, a Navajo Nation tribal road that runs parallel to U.S. 89, at its monthly meeting April 12 in Tucson.
The project would improve the existing 44-mile-long tribal route so the road could accommodate the anticipated traffic volumes, including commercial truck traffic. The major work is paving 27 miles of dirt road stretching from Bodaway-Gap to LeChee.
The primary detour to and from Page and the Lake Powell area uses U.S. 160 and State Route 98, but the 115-mile-long detour, which is 45 miles longer than the direct route, is likely a burden on drivers who have to use it every day.
By paving N20, ADOT will cut the detour route nearly in half and make it close to the length of the normal U.S. 89 route.
ADOT expects the project to start next month - as long as the agency can obtain all right-of-way and environmental agreements through the Navajo Nation, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Navajo Division of Transportation.
"After numerous face-to-face meetings, roundtable discussions and several presentations from Window Rock to Flagstaff, ADOT and its many partners, including Navajo Nation, Navajo Division of Transportation, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Federal Highway Administration, have demonstrated great teamwork to put us in position to begin paving Navajo Route 20 next month if all agreements can get signed, sealed and delivered," said Dallas Hammit, ADOT deputy state engineer of development. "ADOT is anxious to move forward to pave this road and create a more direct temporary detour route."
In a press release, ADOT said the goal is to complete the work by early summer.
The project is eligible for reimbursement through the Federal Highway Administration's (FHA) emergency relief program, which provides money to state and local agencies for the repair or reconstruction of highways, roads and bridges that are damaged in natural disasters and catastrophic failures. FHA already gave ADOT $2 million in quick release funds to assess the damage and the stability of the mountain slope, and conduct emergency operations.
Once the paving of N20 is completed, ADOT would designate the tribal road as Temporary State Route 89 (SR 89T). After the reconstruction of U.S. 89 is complete, ADOT would relinquish SR 89T to the Navajo Nation. There is no timetable for reopening the highway.
A landslide buckled pavement and closed U.S. 89 north of Bitter Springs and south of Page Feb. 20.
ADOT geotechnical investigation is the first phase of the agency's solution. Crews are monitoring the stability of the slope and the ultimate repair of U.S. 89 will be based on the results of the geotechnical work.
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