Arizona approves Navajo road as closure bypass

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- The state Transportation Board has designated a 45-mile-long Navajo tribal road as a temporary state highway.

Navajo Route 20 between The Gap and Page will become US 89T and be used as an alternate to a closed stretch of US 89 south of Page.

The board approved $1 million for the design phase during a special meeting Thursday.

US 89 north of Bitter Springs and south of Page has been closed since Feb. 20 because of a landslide that buckled part of the highway on a hillside.

State Department of Transportation crews will pave Navajo Route 20 and ensure it can carry commercial truck traffic while repairs are made to US 89.

Work on the tribal route that parallels US 89 is expected to take up to four months to complete.

The ability to pave Navajo Route 20 is contingent upon agreements being reached with several stakeholders, including the Navajo Division of Transportation, the Navajo Nation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Federal Highway Administration.

"ADOT has been working with the Navajo Division of Transportation, the Navajo Nation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to pave N20 as an interim measure to shorten the detour route between Flagstaff and Page," said Dallas Hammit, ADOT deputy state engineer of development. "With assistance from the Federal Highway Administration, we are looking to use federal emergency relief funds to restore essential traffic in the region, while we work on the ultimate repair on US 89."

"This is not the long-term solution, but it will help the thousands of people who are inconvenienced daily by this unscheduled detour caused by last month's landslide," Hammit said.

After the reconstruction of US 89 is complete, the road 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.

While US 89 remains closed indefinitely, the current primary detour route is to take US 160 through Tuba City to SR 98 toward Page, which is approximately 45 miles longer than the direct route. Drivers also have the option to take US 89A north to Marble Canyon toward Fredonia to reconnect to US 89 in Kanab, Utah.

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