PAGE — The Arizona Department of Transportation plans to pave Navajo Route 20 as a short-term fix for the detoured Highway 89, it has been announced.
A six-member ADOT team met Wednesday night with Page City Council to detail soil-testing efforts along the section of 89 damaged by a Feb. 20 landslide.
Though team members did not specify a timetable for repairs, a representative mentioned improvements to N20 would last two years.
The mostly dirt N20, which runs parallel to 89 through the LeChee, Coppermine and Bodaway Gap chapters, will receive an all-weather surface that should last two years, Robert Samour, from the state engineers office, told the Council.
N20 had been projected by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Navajo Department of Transportation to receive a more permanent solution by 2024, Samour said, calling the temporary fix “not by any means the ultimate project they were looking for.”
Navajo Nation officials earlier circulated an estimate of two years to repair the damage done to Highway 89 south of Page along Echo Cliffs near the Cut. State officials contend that any talk of a timetable is premature.
“Our goal is to complete US 89 repairs as soon as possible, but it’s too premature to lay out a timeline,” said Dustin Krugel, an ADOT spokesman. “We are still working through the process of determining what happened beneath the highway and then we’ll figure out a best plan for long-term options for US 89.”
What is moving forward is a plan to pave a nearby alternative route by this summer, cutting time off the current detour. That route uses Highway 160 and Navajo Route 98, and it adds 49 miles to a trip between Flagstaff and Page.
At a March 7 meeting of federal, state and tribal highway officials, according to a Navajo Division of Transportation account, a plan took shape to turn Navajo Route 20, known locally as the Coppermine Road, into a paved detour to last the duration of the repair project.
The plan is to have N20 paved by the summer so traffic from 89 can be rerouted onto it, including commercial traffic. Until then, graders will continue to maintain the roadway.
Representatives from the Coppermine, Bodaway Gap and LeChee chapters were on hand to throw support behind the project, according to the NDOT account.
So far, the Federal Highway Administrations has allocated $2 million to the repair effort on Highway 89, with an initial ADOT estimate of at least $35 million needed for complete repairs.
Direct through routes for emergency first responders are being graded at the site of the landslide. Engineers continue to bore holes and collect geotechnical data at the site.
ADOT is looking to design the 28 miles of new pavement for N20 to last about two to three years when used by heavy commercial vehicles. Some of the curves will be straightened and the grades flattened, and reduced speed limits will be enforced.
Samour told the Page audience that five security breaches were reported along the closed section of Highway 89 over the weekend. Two people took down a barrier fence on the north end and tried to drive through, making it all the way to the barrier at the south end. Four of the trespassers came from the north, and one from the south, he said.