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US Highway 89 Repair Update

December 04
15:39 2013

According to the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), an official update will soon be released about the repair of US Highway 89 on the section of road that collapsed between Bitter Springs and Page in February of this year.

The long-term fix for US 89 involves cutting back the mountain slope, building a support wall and constructing the new road. But before all that can begin, other tasks must be completed.

Environmental and Water Concerns

Environmental impact is among the first considerations to be addressed. ADOT is coordinating with a number of agencies to assure this project has minimal impact on the area. Archaeological and biological surveys of the site must be conducted along with water quality impact studies.

In the case of water concerns, the focus is on washes on the site that lead to the Colorado River.  According to ADOT Water Quality Analyst Julia Manfredi,

We had ADOT, the Army Corps of Engineers, ADOT’s consultants and the Navajo EPA water quality folks — what we are looking for is areas that would be considered Waters of the U.S. by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, so what we have to do is identify where the Waters of the U.S. are, so that we can tell if this project is going to cause a discharge of dredge or fill material to those Waters of the U.S. and if it is going to, then we will have to permit that through the Army Corps of Engineers and also through the Navajo Environmental Protection Agency.”

Water is just one small piece of the puzzle for ADOT to work on. Environmental surveys of the entire project area must be completed prior to any sort of construction.

Construction Starts Mid-2014

highwayCollapse

Highway 89 Collapse

ADOT says the projected $25 million repair is on track. Design on the repair began in late August and meetings with contractors continue this fall. ADOT’s goal is to start construction by mid-2014, if the extensive environmental and right-of-way clearances are finalized.

After the reconstruction of US 89 is complete, the current detour route of US 89T will be returned to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It will be referred to again as Navajo Route 20, with maintenance handled by the Navajo Division of Transportation.

Chronology of Highway 89 Collapse and 89T Construction

  • February 20, 2013

A deep, 150-foot-long pavement crack on US Highway 89 is reported about 25 miles south of Page,in the section known by locals as “the Big Cut.”

  • February/March 2013
BenShellyN20

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly

Page Unified School District uses a bypass to transport students to and from school. The detour takes 45 minutes to 1 hour longer than normal each way. Changes are made to pickup and dropoff times until the road is repaired.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly visits site with Navajo elders to assess what happened.

Four days after the landslide, Shelly and staff meet with community members in Bodaway-Gap to hear concerns from affected communities.  Shelly signs an emergency declaration the same day and sends it to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

  • April 5, 2013

U.S. Representative from Arizona for District 1, Ann Kirkpatrick, joined ADOT and DPS officials on a tour of the U.S. 89 site. Kirkpatrick writes letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation in support of ADOT’s request for emergency relief funds. Two million dollars in initial emergency funds were released by the federal agency soon afterwards.

  • May 2, 2013
RepAnnKirkpatrick

Ann Kirkpatrick, US Congress, Gets US Dept. Transp. Emergency Relief Funds

Congresswoman Kirkpatrick announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation authorized a $35 million emergency relief grant for repairs to US Highway 89.

  • June 9, 2013

Groundbreaking ceremony for the building of N20 at the Tsinaabaas Habitiin Elementary School in Bodaway-Gap. Navajo Division of Transportation and ADOT officially broke ground on the Navajo Route 20 paving project.

  • Aug. 29, 2013

US 89T opened with limited access, nighttime and speed restrictions, only three months after construction began on the $35 million paving project.

  • August 31, 2013

US 89T Dedication Ceremony
Navajo President Ben Shelly commends all departments for “Working Together.

  • October 3, 2013

ADOT reports that construction on US 89T (former N20) is just about complete.

  • October 16, 2013

ADOT officially opens the newly paved, shorter U.S. 89T detour route in Northern Arizona without special restrictions.  For more information read the Geotechnical investigation on the landslide-damaged highway at the ADOT website.

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