In a bid to address the aftermath of the extensive damage caused by flooding in 2019, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is proposing a $4 million plan to restore limited access to 5 miles of State Route 88, commonly known as Apache Trail. The interim project, scheduled for consideration by the State Transportation Board, aims to make the roadway accessible to vehicles with high clearance, four-wheel drive, and utility terrain vehicles.
The closure of SR 88 in 2019 between Fish Creek Hill Overlook and Apache Lake Marina Road (mileposts 222-229) was a result of severe flooding, exacerbated by runoff from the Woodbury Fire scar. This flooding extensively damaged the gravel roadway, leading to boulder blockages, compromised drainage systems, guardrails, and bridge approaches. The unstable rock faces posed safety hazards, making the road susceptible to additional damage and closures.
ADOT’s Interim Plan
ADOT’s interim plan focuses on addressing immediate concerns to allow access for high-clearance or four-wheel drive vehicles. The proposed actions include removing boulders on Fish Creek Hill, mitigating rockfall, repairing retaining walls, installing new signage, and potentially replacing damaged drainage culverts. Preliminary work, such as vegetation removal, filling eroded areas, and cleaning culverts, is scheduled to begin in February, with construction work expected later in the year, subject to State Transportation Board approval.
Challenges and Approvals
Before initiating the construction project, the U.S. Forest Service must review and approve the interim project design, as SR 88 traverses federal land. Additionally, the project must comply with all state and federal environmental requirements.
ADOT’s long-term plan for SR 88, developed through extensive public involvement and study, aims to enhance the roadway’s resilience to severe weather. The $33.7 million plan includes chip sealing, widening the roadway, improving drainage capacity, rehabilitating or repairing existing bridges, and adding pullouts and safety enhancements. However, dedicated funding for the long-term plan is not secured, and ADOT is actively pursuing federal funding for these improvements.
Historical Significance and Usage
Apache Trail, constructed during the building of Theodore Roosevelt Dam in 1911, serves as a vital link between the East Valley and Roosevelt Lake. Prior to its closure in 2019, the stretch between Tortilla Flat and Apache Lake saw an average daily usage of 232 vehicles.
Ongoing and Future Projects
ADOT has been diligently working to restore access and improve other damaged sections of SR 88 since 2019. Motorists can currently access Apache Lake via SR 188 and travel 9 miles east from Tortilla Flat. An $18 million project by the Federal Highway Administration’s Central Federal Lands Highway Division is also underway, chip-sealing 11 miles between Apache Lake and SR 188 near Theodore Roosevelt Dam.
The proposed $4 million interim plan by ADOT signifies a crucial step towards restoring limited access to SR 88, addressing immediate safety concerns. As the State Transportation Board considers the plan, it marks a significant effort in ensuring the continued use and resilience of this historic route. The long-term plan, contingent on securing funding, aims to make substantial improvements, further enhancing SR 88’s capacity to withstand severe weather conditions.