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road-slip02-2-21.jpgOak Creek Canyon closed a day early for construction due to a snowstorm that swept across Northern Arizona on Monday, Feb. 19.
By Trista Steers
Larson Newspapers
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Oak Creek Canyon closed a day early for construction due to a snowstorm that swept across Northern Arizona on Monday, Feb. 19.

Arizona Department of Transportation planned to close the switchbacks Tuesday, Feb. 20, to repair a section of road that fell into the canyon.

Monday?s snowstorm brought the closure a day early and shut down the entire canyon.

?They closed it as a precautionary measure,? ADOT Public Information Officer Jodi Sorrell said.

Oak Creek Canyon?s switchbacks will be closed to through traffic for at least two weeks, depending on weather.

?Everyone?s working together to get this done as quick as possible,? ADOT Senior Resident Engineer Carl Burkhalter said.

On Monday, roadblocks set up at the edge of Sedona closed the entire canyon, Sorrell said.

Starting Tuesday, motorists won?t be turned around until Pine Flats Campground.

ADOT reduced traffic to single lane around the road damage Feb. 12, after a chunk of the northbound lane near the top of the switchbacks fell off during a snowstorm the night before.

A snow plow operator noticed the missing chunk, according to Burkhalter.

Approximately a 10-foot long chunk of asphalt broke off and slid down the canyon wall, leaving the guard rail suspended in the air.

The road broke off when an old retaining wall beneath it gave away, Burkhalter said.

Collapse of the wall only damaged a small section because ADOT built new retaining walls on either side of the break 15 years ago, according to Burkhalter. The now-damaged wall wasn?t replaced then because it was in good condition.

Now, ADOT plans to connect the walls on either side of the break with a new retaining wall.

Construction crews began working Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 7 a.m.

Crews will dig holes in the side of the canyon wall with a drill rig, place steel poles in them and secure the poles with concrete, Burkhalter said.

According to Burkhalter, ADOT planned to fix the wall but the break made the project a higher priority.

?We were going to come in and fix it next month,? Burkhalter said. ?We knew the situation was here.?

Burkhalter said commuters between Sedona and Flagstaff are most affected. An alternative route — I-17 to Hwy. 179 — will have to be used, adding about a half-hour of drive time.

People living or working in the canyon won?t be affected, according to Burkhalter.

?There?s no businesses or houses that won?t be accessible,? Burkhalter said.


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