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Hwy. 89A will close for two weeks starting Feb. 20

Hwy. 89A in Oak Creek Canyon closed Wednesday morning, Feb. 14, but reopened by 4 p.m. the same afternoon because part of the northbound lane pavement fell into the canyon.

By Trista Steers
Larson Newspapers
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Hwy. 89A in Oak Creek Canyon closed Wednesday morning, Feb. 14, but reopened by 4 p.m. the same afternoon because part of the northbound lane pavement fell into the canyon.

Approximately one-third of the northbound lane on a 10-foot section of the switchbacks is gone, according to Department of Public Safety Sgt. Tod Wigman. The guardrail along the section is suspended in the air.

Hwy. 89A is open but only to single lane traffic in the problem area. The highway will close for two weeks starting on Feb. 20.

Flaggers will work around the clock waving traffic through from both directions on only the southbound lane.

ADOT will close the road for several days again next to make repairs, Jodi Sorrell, Arizona Department of Transportation public information officer, said.

Wigman said most of Hwy. 89A along the switchbacks is supported by steel beams driven into the hillside but this section is not. When crews constructed the 10-feet of failing roadway a sturdy retaining wall already existed, according to Wigman.

Since the road was paved the retaining wall has given way to erosion, Wigman said.

ADOT closed the road Wednesday until officials determined it was safe for travel.

Roadblocks at Slide Rock State Park and the top of the switch backs prevented motorists from passing along Hwy. 89A.

Wigman said ADOT engineers were in Phoenix Wednesday so an ADOT foreman had to make the decision to close the road.

?Safety of the motorists and residents in the area is our main concern,? Sorrell said. ADOT wants to make sure it?s safe before they allow people on the road, according to Sorrell.

Once engineers returned from Phoenix they determined the road could be reopened to single lane traffic with flaggers, Wigman said.

On Monday, Feb. 12, ADOT decided to stop traffic in the northbound lane due to recent moisture, Sorrell said.

?Part of the canyon wall gave way to the rains,? Sorrell said. ?Gravity and Mother Nature just kind of take effect.?

Wigman said they worried the highway would give way while someone was driving on it.

ADOT knew this was a problem area and had been patrolling the highway 24 hours a day to monitor the situation, according to Sorrell.

Patrols will continue until next week to ensure motorists? safety, Sorrell said.

Sorrell said ADOT planned to improve the highway in the future but the project was streamlined in response to weather conditions.

?This just moved it to the top of the list,? Sorrell said.

The northbound lane needs to be re-paved, a new guardrail installed and the retaining wall repaired, according to Sorrell.

Construction will begin early next week, Sorrell said, at which time Hwy. 89A will be closed again.

?We?re in the process of getting all of this stuff organized,? Sorrell said.


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