PHOENIX — Drivers who make the daily commute to and from Page will soon get good news later this summer as the Arizona Department of Transportation has begun work on upgrading Navajo Route 20, which will eventually serve as a shorter interim detour route for drivers who have impacted by the US 89 landslide closure.
Initial work on the 44-mile-long tribal route started last week including clearing debris and brush from the roadway and grading the mostly dirt road stretching from Bodaway-Gap to LeChee.
Next month crews are expected to begin paving on the future interim detour route, which has been designated Temporary US 89. It will eventually open to all motorists, including commercial truck traffic, later this summer when the project is finished.
Once complete, the N20 detour route (US 89T) will reduce travel time for motorists heading to and from Page and the Lake Powell area. Currently, the primary detour is to take US 160 to State Route 98, which is approximately 115-miles long and 45 miles longer than the direct route. By paving N20, the detour route would be cut nearly in half.
“An important thing for drivers to remember is that while ADOT is working on the N20 project, motorists are advised to stick with the current established detour, which is using US 160 to State Route 98,” said Rob Samour, ADOT senior deputy state engineer of operations. “We are grateful for the support of our many partners, including the Navajo Nation, Federal Highway Administration, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Navajo Division of Transportation who helped get this project off the ground in a very short time since the Feb. 20 landslide.”
The $35 million improvement project is eligible for reimbursement through the Federal Highway Administration's emergency relief program, which provides funding to state and local agencies for the repair or reconstruction of highways, roads and bridges that are damaged in natural disasters and catastrophic failures. ADOT has already been awarded $35 million in federal aid, including $2 million in quick release funds to assess the damage and the stability of the mountain slope, and conduct emergency operations.
After the reconstruction of US 89 is complete, US 89T will be relinquished to the Navajo Nation. There is no timetable for reopening the highway but ADOT is committed to restoring this important travel route as soon as safely possible.
US 89 has been closed north of Bitter Springs and south of Page since Feb. 20 due to a landslide that buckled pavement on the mountain slope.
ADOT is currently in the final stages of its geotechnical investigation, which is the first phase of the solution. Crews are monitoring the stability of the slope and the ultimate repair of US 89 will be based on the results of the geotechnical work.
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.