PHOENIX — The newly paved, shorter US 89 detour route in northern Arizona is now fully open with no restrictions after the Arizona Department of Transportation completed fencing along the corridor to help prevent livestock from crossing the roadway.
The Temporary US 89 (US 89T) route opened with limited access on Aug. 29, only three months after construction began the $35 million project to pave Navajo Route 20, which was mostly a dirt and sandy road before work began in late May.
Until now, the roadway was limited to only daytime use and speed restrictions were present in areas where the fencing had yet to be completed. Along with fencing, crews have recently finished final lane striping and installed recessed pavement markings to enhance safety along the corridor. The maximum speed limit for the corridor is now 55 mph.
The 44-mile-long US 89T route runs parallel to US 89 from The Gap to LeChee and is accessible from US 89, approximately 17 miles north of the US 160 junction (Tuba City exit). Previously a Navajo Nation roadway, US 89T will be maintained by ADOT while it is in use as a detour.
The US 89T project became necessary after a Feb. 20 landslide closed a section of US 89 between Bitter Springs and Page. Prior to paving US 89T, drivers headed to and from Page were forced to take a 115-mile-long alternate route along US 160 and State Route 98.
When traveling on US 89T, ADOT urges motorists to slow down, pay attention to their surroundings and be aware that this roadway on the Navajo Nation is prone to animal crossings, including horses, goats, cows and dogs.
The US 89T project was 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.
US 89T is not part of the ultimate solution to repair US 89, which suffered a landslide that buckled pavement along the mountain slope in the Echo Cliffs area.
After an extensive geotechnical investigation of the US 89 landslide, ADOT’s proposed solution is to move the travel lanes away from the active landslide and construct a rock structure to stabilize the area.
The projected $25 million repair is already on the fast track. Design on the repair began in late August and ADOT is meeting with potential contractors this fall. ADOT’s goal is to start construction by mid-2014, if extensive environmental and right-of-way clearances are finalized.
After the reconstruction of US 89 is complete, US 89T will be returned to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and will be referred to again as Navajo Route 20, with maintenance handled by the Navajo Division of Transportation.
ADOT has a range of communication tools, including a Web page (www.azdot.gov/us89) dedicated to keeping the public informed about the status of the closure and alternate travel routes, including US 89T, complemented by up-to-date video and photos of the roadway damage on US 89.