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US 89 Landslide: A Year Later

February 20
16:48 2014

89landslide_smallIt’s been a year since a landslide ripped through a section of US 89 along a mountain slope about 25 miles south of Page.  The roadway damage forced the Arizona Department of Transportation to immediately close a 23-mile-long stretch of the highway between the US 89A near Bitter Springs to the State Route 98 junction near Page. Following an extensive geological investigation into the Feb. 20, 2013 landslide, ADOT has made strides in accelerating progress on the emergency project.

Now the Arizona Department of Transportation is gearing up to start construction early summer and potentially complete the emergency repair by the end of this year — if there are no environmental, utility or right-of-way hurdles.

Since August, ADOT has retained an engineering design firm and developed plans for the eventual repair; finalized all federally required environmental reviews that include cultural, biological and water quality measures; and completed the plans for the required right-of-way easements.

ADOT Working with Agencies to Expedite Process

ADOT also continues to work with the Navajo Nation on obtaining right-of-way easements that will be necessary prior to construction. An agreement between the Federal Highway Administration, Navajo Nation and Bureau of Indian Affairs must be reached to establish an expanded easement that facilitates construction, as well as operations and maintenance of the full repair.

ADOT reports the environmental and design process for a normal project can take two years to complete, but ADOT has been working with the Federal Highway Administration, Navajo Nation, Navajo Division of Transportation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to expedite the environmental, utility and right-of-way clearance and approval process, knowing the lack of a usable road between the Bitter Springs and Page communities is a hardship for many people.

Environmental Documentation Submitted

ADOT passed a major milestone this week toward beginning construction on the ultimate repair of US 89. The final environmental documentation was submitted to the Federal Highway Administration today for review. Without this clearance, ADOT cannot use federal funds for this project. While that approval is pending, ADOT continues work on the pre-construction elements of the project, like finalizing the design of the repair.

Our final goal for delivery of our three-pronged approach — which initially included the geotechnical investigation and providing emergency access, and restoring mobility to the region with the paving of Navajo Route 20 — is to complete the US 89 reconstruction by advancing the necessary environmental, utility and right of way clearances as diligently as possible while complying with all the regulations in conjunction with our Navajo Nation partners and other regulatory stakeholders. This project remains a top priority for ADOT and our project partners.” – Jennifer Toth, ADOT state engineer and Deputy Director for Transportation

The repair is currently estimated to cost $25 million. The project will include moving the roadway approximately 60 feet toward Echo Cliffs and using that rock to construct a downslope buttress to stabilize the area. ADOT wants to start the repairs as soon as possible following environmental, utility and right-of-way clearances.

Shortly after the landslide, ADOT, along with the Navajo Nation and the Federal Highway Administration, pursued paving Navajo Route 20 (which became the US 89T route) to serve as a short-term solution. By paving N20, the length of the originally established detour route (US 160 and State Route 98) was cut in half.

After three months of intensive work, the newly paved two-lane roadway was opened to traffic in August. Read N20 Dedication, Ben Shelly Says Work Together

The US 89 emergency repair project is eligible for reimbursement through the Federal Highway Administration’s emergency relief program, which provides funding to state and local agencies for the repair or reconstruction of highways, roads and bridges that are damaged in natural disasters and catastrophic failures.

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