PHOENIX — Nearly three months after a devastating landslide cut off direct access on US 89 between Bitter Springs and Page, the Arizona Department of Transportation has been awarded $35 million in federal emergency funds to begin repairing the damaged highway and restore essential traffic in the region.
Following Governor Jan Brewer’s Declaration of Emergency on March 1, ADOT formally requested $35 million in its initial estimate for repairs through the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief program. The Emergency Relief program reimburses state and local jurisdictions for the repair or reconstruction of highways, roads and bridges that were damaged in natural disasters and catastrophic failures.
“This federal aid will allow us to repair the damaged US 89 roadway and restore mobility to the region by providing a safe route for drivers after this geological event made this route impassable,” said ADOT Director John Halikowski. “There is not a quick and easy process to fix the highway because there are a great deal of engineering and geological issues to consider. It is important to figure out what has happened because that will help guide us in what the ultimate repair will be.”
The federal aid will also be used to upgrade Navajo Route 20, which is mostly a dirt road between Bodaway-Gap and LeChee that runs parallel to US 89 and is used by local residents. By paving N20, the road would serve as the interim detour route (US 89T) until repairs are finished on US 89 and would substantially reduce travel time for motorists heading to and from Page. Work is expected to begin later this month.
The current detour established for drivers is using US 160 (Tuba City exit) and State Route 98, which is approximately 115 miles long and 45 miles longer than the direct US 89 route. Drivers also have the option to take US 89A north to Marble Canyon toward Fredonia to reconnect to US 89 in Kanab, Utah.
“I think what the mountain slide brought home is that we can’t take the transportation system for granted,” Halikowski said. “People rely on it a great deal to get from point A to point B, but also for many, many other things. Whether that’s transporting school children, or for emergencies services or for the tourism industry, transportation is one of those networks that we find, once we don’t have it, it’s very difficult to live without it.”
The $35 million in emergency relief funds are in addition to $2 million the Federal Highway Administration provided to ADOT in March to begin assessing the damage and establish access for emergency vehicles.
As a result of an early morning landslide on Feb. 20, US 89 suffered more than 500 feet of damage, including a 150-foot section of pavement that settled four-to-six feet due to the failure of the mountain slope. US 89 remains closed between the US 89A junction near Bitter Springs to the State Route 98 junction south of Page (mileposts 523-546).
ADOT is currently in the final stages of its geotechnical investigation, which is the first phase of the solution. Crews have completed drilling, but are continuing weekly monitoring of the stability of the slope in the Echo Cliffs and the ultimate repair of US 89 will be based on the results of the geotechnical work. The final geotechnical report will be completed by the end of May.
ADOT has launched a range of communication tools, including a Web page (azdot.gov/us89) dedicated to keeping the public informed about the status of the closure and alternate travel routes, complemented by up-to-date video and photos of the roadway damage on US 89.
For the latest highway conditions across Arizona, visit ADOT’s Travel Information site at www.az511.gov or call 5-1-1 from any landline or mobile phone from anywhere in Arizona. Anywhere outside of Arizona, please call 1-888-411-ROAD (7623).