ADOT opens newly paved Coppermine Road

By Krista Allen
Western Agency Bureau

COPPERMINE, Ariz., September 05, 2013

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T he paving of Navajo Route 20 is finally complete and the Arizona Department of Transportation last week officially opened the newly paved highway.

A dedication took place at the junction of Coppermine Chapter spur road and N-20 that was change to Temporary U.S. Highway 89 (U.S. 89T).

"We thank you for coming and sharing the joy that we have with the paving of Coppermine Road," said Chapter President Floyd Stevens during his welcome address. "We trust that you drove in this morning on a ... scenic route. We also trust that you drove in with only the wind whistling in your drive instead of the shake, roll and rattle of previous years."

As a result of a landslide on Feb. 20, U.S. 89 near Antelope Pass Scenic Overlook at the Big Cut suffered more than 500 feet of damage, including a 150-foot section of pavement that settled four-to-six feet caused by failure at the top of the mountain slope.

The significant damage forced ADOT to immediately close a 23-mile stretch of highway (from U.S. 89A junction to the SR 98 junction - mileposts 523 to 546).

Since then, motorists have been using U.S. Highway 160 and State Route 98 to get to Page, which is approximately 115 miles long and 45 miles longer than the direct U.S. 89 route. So to cut the detour travel and mileage by half, a decision was made to pave N-20.

"Our initial reaction ? when we heard that Coppermine Road (would be paved) ? was:'Is it true? Is it really happening?'" said Stevens. "Afterwards, the announcement was made that this road (would) be completed in less than four months. Again ? our reaction ? we (exclaimed), 'No way!'"

"And now ladies and gentlemen, here's our proof," continued Stevens as the nearly 300 people applauded. "We express our joy, our happiness, our excitement, enthusiasm that this road is finally built."

The $35 million paving project was completed only three months after breaking ground, an impressive achievement considering the 44-mile-long route was mostly dirt road before work began in late May.

It took 69 calendar days to pave N-20.

FNF Construction project manager Matt Trembly says 450,000 cubic yards of sand was moved on the roadway.

"To put that into perspective, that will bury an entire football field, both end zones, 250-feet deep," said Trembly.

Thirty-six million gallons of water was hauled between the Page Water Treatment Plant and the Tuba City Water Treatment Plant. Subsequently, 127,000 tons of gravel and 110,000 tons of asphalt were estimated for the project.

"Those were all hauled in by trucks," said Trembly. "There was just over 17,000 truck loads of material that were delivered to this site. On our busiest day, we had just over 170 trucks running between dayshift and nightshift to haul this material on to the site."

"The biggest accomplishment though ... we hired (many) locals, we put (many) people to work, and we put (much) money into the economy between the motel rooms and the food that was eaten during that time."

According to FNF Construction, a project this size normally takes anywhere from nine months to a year to complete, but this work has been put on the fast track due to the situation and the impact U.S. 89 closure has had on the local communities.

The project is now 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.

While the paving operations have been completed, U.S. 89T remains an active construction zone as crews continue to install right-of-way fencing along the corridor, which has a large amount of livestock.

Until fencing is complete, U.S. 89T will be open during daylight hours only (except for local traffic) and there will be a 25-mph speed limit in place. When construction is complete, the speed limit will be raised and nighttime restrictions will be lifted.

The Navajo Department of Transportation, ADOT, FHA and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have been working together since the closure of U.S. 89 to use N-20 as a detour. A total of 700 employees worked on the paving of N-20.