ADOT wants opinions on design for state Route 88 northeast of Apache Junction

A 5-mile stretch of state Route 88 has been closed since 2019 northeast of Apache Junction and ADOT is just now wrapping up public comment for repairs.
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 7:56 PM MST
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TORTILLA FLAT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — It’s been four years since a fire and then a storm destroyed a 5-mile stretch of state Route 88, up toward Apache Lake. That part of the highway has been closed ever since 2019. But an Arizona Department of Transportation study is working on a plan to safely reopen the historic road. Public comment on ADOT’s design recommendations ends Friday.

Tortilla Flat is a tiny town with a population of six. But thousands of people worldwide pass through one stop on the Apache Trail every year. It’s been tough for tourism ever since part of state Route 88 was damaged and shut down. To Katie Ellering – the Apache Trail is more than a highway. It’s a historic loop of adventure that’s worth preserving and maintaining. “We’re the last surviving stagecoach stop on the Apache Trail and now we’re the last stop on the trail and we don’t want to be known as that. We want the trail to go through,” said Ellering. She owns Tortilla Flat.

State Route 88 was created in 1904 to give construction access to workers building the Roosevelt Dam. The narrow, winding road cuts through the Superstition Mountains and parts are unpaved. “There’s so much history out in this area. If this road doesn’t get open, we don’t want it to be gone and lost forever,” she said.

The Woodbury Fire in June 2019 burned 123,875, making it the fifth largest wildfire in Arizona’s history. A few months later, a storm poured 6 inches of rain onto the fire scar. The runoff and rockslide damaged the road near Fish Creek Hill Overlook to the point it’s now impassable. “Car-sized boulders in the road and, you know, the foundation of the road kinda crumbling and washing away,” remembered Ellering.

ADOT says it is working to fix that with a recommendation to pave and widen parts of the road, add guardrails and improve the drainage system. The goal is to make the highway resilient to future storms. “This storm did something that no one’s ever seen before so that’s why it’s going to take a lot of work to get this road back in shape so that it is safe for the public,” said Garin Groff with ADOT.

In the meantime, detours are available, but Ellering says what used to be a 15-minute drive now takes three hours. There’s concern about emergency response time and how long it’s taking ADOT to act. “There’s definitely a lot of frustration,” said Ellering.

ADOT says it will be several years before the road reopens. They say they need to finalize a design plan and secure federal funding. ADOT is accepting public comment through Friday. Comments can be submitted to ADOT in the following ways:

  • Email at
  • Phone at (480) 967-1343
  • Mail to: SR 88 Study, c/o Marshall Hayes, Logan Simpson, 51 West Third St., Suite 450, Tempe, AZ 85281

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