ADOT bolsters efforts to support Healthy Forest Initiative

Weight limits increased on SR 73 in White Mountains to aid forest recovery

PHOENIX — A little more than six months after the Arizona Department of Transportation eased some weight restrictions on several highways in the White Mountains region to aid forest recovery efforts, more than 67 million pounds of timber has been removed to reduce the risk of future wildfires.

In November 2014, ADOT partnered with the Arizona State Forestry Division and Eastern Arizona Counties Organization to launch the “Healthy Forest Initiative” in a joint effort to promote healthy forests, improve commerce and protect the state’s infrastructure from further damage from devastating wildfires.

Map of highways with increased weight limits as part of forest recovery efforts.The two-year ADOT pilot project allows timber industry trucks to carry additional weight on several state highways in the White Mountains region, including US 60 (mileposts 324-402), State Route 77 (mileposts 342-360), US 180 (mileposts 394-433), State Route 260 (mileposts 250-398), State Route 277 (mileposts 305-336) and State Route 373 (mileposts 385-390).

Previously, trucks were limited to carrying loads of no more than 80,000 pounds. Under the new agreement, the weight limit has been increased on several highways to 90,800 pounds, which allows the timber industry to more effectively manage the forest recovery efforts by carrying heavier loads.

To date, nearly 800 loads have been hauled since the start of the Healthy Forest Initiative.

To bolster those efforts, ADOT has added another highway in the White Mountains on which trucks can carry additional weight. State Route 73 (mileposts 335-358) from Fort Apache to the State Route 260 junction south of Pinetop-Lakeside in Navajo County is now the seventh highway in the region with an increased weight restriction.

“Since the adoption of the Healthy Forest Initiative in November, we’ve seen an immediate response from the logging industry,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “The higher truck weight limits have enhanced the ability of the private industry to clear forests in the White Mountains and transport wood material to sawmills, pellet plants and energy-generating plants in Springerville, Show Low and Snowflake, while reducing the risk of further catastrophic forest fires in the region.

“ADOT is proud to partner with the logging industry to provide jobs, boost the economy and efficiently and safely use the infrastructure to benefit Arizona.”

Last year, Eastern Arizona Counties Organization— which represents Navajo, Apache, Gila, Graham and Greenlee counties — approached ADOT about concerns from the northern Arizona logging industry about weight restrictions on several highways in eastern Arizona, an area subject to recent wildfires.

Prior to approval, ADOT staff conducted an extensive pavement and bridge analysis to determine if the highways could stand up to the increased weight loads.

Timber haulers interested in the program can participate by filing an application for a 30-day, $75 per vehicle permit that will allow an unlimited number of loads up to 90,800 pounds on the designated routes. The permit fees collected will be used to offset impacts to these roadways.

The 2011 Wallow Fire burned more than 500,000 acres in Apache County and resulted in millions of dollars of economic loss, countless hours of firefighter service and loss of animal habitat. ADOT had more than $2.5 million in damages related to the Wallow Fire, including roadway surface repairs, fence replacements, flooding mitigation, sign repairs, hazardous tree removal and ditch cleaning.