Nearly three months after a devastating landslide cut off direct access on U.S. 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 restoring essential traffic in the region.
Following Gov. 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.
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 U.S. 89 and is used by local residents. By paving Route 20, the road would serve as the interim detour route (U.S. 89T) until repairs are finished on US 89 and would substantially reduce travel time. Work is expected to begin later this month and will include paving a 27-mile stretch of the 44-mile long tribal route.
The current detour established for drivers is using U.S. 160 (Tuba City exit) and State Route 98, which is approximately 115 miles long and 45 miles longer than the direct U.S. 89 route. Drivers also have the option to take U.S. 89A north to Marble Canyon toward Fredonia to reconnect to U.S. 89 in Kanab, Utah. By paving N20, the detour route would be cut nearly in half and similar in length to the closed U.S. 89 route.
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, U.S. 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.
ADOT is currently in the final stages of its geotechnical investigation, which is the first phase of the solution. The final geotechnical report will be completed by the end of May.
ADOT has launched a range of communication tools, including a web page 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 U.S. 89.