Arizona will receive $35 million in emergency relief from the U.S. DOT for repairs to U.S. Highway 89, which has been closed since its collapse in a landslide in February.
The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) will use the funds to establish a new detour on Navajo Rte. 20 (N20), to continue ongoing assessments and emergency repair work and to evaluate options for permanently restoring U.S. 89.
On Feb. 20, a landslide ripped through a section of U.S. 89 along a mountain slope about 25 miles south of Page, buckling more than 150 ft of the roadway and tearing the pavement up in sections. A 23-mile-long stretch of the highway was immediately closed because of the damage.
"This money will make a big difference for families and businesses striving to continue their daily lives and bounce back from this landslide," Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez said. "We are committed to restoring transportation during this interim time until we find a solution for permanent repairs."
A portion of the $35 million will go toward paving N20, a Navajo Nation tribal road that runs parallel to Highway 89, which will cut back the length of travel by more than 55 miles for commuters using the current detour. Primarily a dirt road now, N20 will be transformed into a two-lane, 44-mile highway with proper signs and markings for travel safety. The new detour will reduce the commute time for school buses traveling from Bitter Springs to Page by approximately one hour each way. ADOT will designate N20 as a temporary state route for its duration as a detour and will relinquish the route to the Navajo Nation once Highway 89 is complete.
The emergency relief funds are in addition to $2 million the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provided to Arizona in March to begin assessing the damage and establish access for emergency vehicles. U.S. 89 will remain closed as geotechnical experts and engineers continue to examine the mountain slope and roadbed and evaluate options for permanently restoring the highway.
"The closure of Highway 89 has been a real hardship for the people of Page and the surrounding area," said U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood. "The detour built with this funding will make it easier for residents to get to their schools, jobs and homes."