Long-term options for 80-mile stretch of US 191 don’t include closure

Any change would stem from collaboration between ADOT, area stakeholders

SAFFORD – While the Arizona Department of Transportation plans to involve the community in developing long-term plans for maintaining US 191 between Morenci and Alpine, closing this stretch is not – and never has been – among the options under consideration.

“While ADOT isn’t proposing any concrete action, we want to have a transparent and detailed discussion with all stakeholders to determine the best long-term plan for US 191 though this area,” said Bill Harmon, district engineer for ADOT’s Southeast District. “Such a discussion would involve residents, local agencies, elected leaders and other stakeholders. Among other issues, it would take into account the area’s public safety needs.”

The 80-mile stretch of US 191 between Morenci and Alpine is one of the least-traveled in the state highway system, used on average by 81 vehicles per day.

The winding, high-altitude path through national forest that makes this stretch so beautiful for motorists also makes it expensive to maintain: The average annual cost was $658,000 between 2011 and 2016, in large part due to plowing snow and addressing damage from harsh winter weather.

Long-term options that could be developed over the coming years include partnerships with other agencies to share maintenance costs, exploring federal funding and grant opportunities to offset maintenance, operation and construction costs, or turning the stretch over to local jurisdictions willing to take it into their systems.

“With transportation funding limited and nearly 7,000 miles of state highways to maintain, ADOT has an obligation to collaborate with area stakeholders in developing long-term plans for low-volume routes,” Harmon said. “We understand that US 191 is important to connectivity within and between Greenlee and Apache counties, and that must be the starting point for these discussions.”