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Ceremony marks opening of U.S. 89T

Modified: Thursday, Aug 29th, 2013

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly cuts the ceremonial ribbon to open Navajo Route 20.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly lauded teamwork and expressed gratitude Aug. 29 at a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of U.S. 89T, formerly known as Navajo Route 20.

“You have your new N20. It is complete,” Shelly said to a crowd of about 300 people.

The highway was chosen as the detour around the area of U.S. 89 that was torn up by a landslide in February. It runs parallel to U.S. 89 from Gap to LeChee and is accessible on U.S. 89, approximately 17 miles north of the US 160 junction (Tuba City exit).

Other speakers at the event included representatives from the local chapters, Navajo Division of Transportation, Arizona Department of Transportation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Federal Highway Administration.

“This is all it takes,” Shelly said, referring to teamwork. “Let’s work together and look at the future.”

N.R. 20 was a 28-mile dirt road that for decades community members sought to have paved. The closure of U.S. 89 sparked efforts to fast-track improvements.

While the 27-mile 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, according to ADOT.

Until fencing is complete, U.S. 89T will be open during daylight hours only (except for local residents) 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.

Plans call for 89T to be used until U.S. 89 is repaired—an estimated three years—after which it will revert to the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

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