Since a landslide closed US 89 in northern Arizona in February 2013, I have received numerous requests for information about alternative roads. At first, a detour route was established between Flagstaff and Page, Arizona, that took travelers 50 miles out of their way adding at least an hour to the trip.
A much shorter alternative existed in Navajo Route 20 which parallels US 89 for 44 miles from The Gap to Page. The problem was that 27 miles of the road was unpaved and slow going at best. So the three government entities involved—Arizona Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and the Navajo Nation—worked out an agreement to pave Navajo 20 and designate it as Temporary US Route 89.
Ever since the paving was completed in late August of 2013, I have been anxious to drive the new road. A couple of weeks ago, Barbara and I made the drive and I can report that 89T is more than adequate as a bypass to the damaged section of US 89.
The new road begins at The Gap, so called because of a break in the Echo Cliffs that allows for a quick ascent onto the Kaibito Plateau. It is actually a shorter climb that the ascent up the Echo Cliffs where the landslide occurred. Once on the plateau, 89T runs straight and true to Page. The driving time and distance are nearly the same if not a little shorter.
Perhaps the only downside is that I miss the view of Marble Canyon and the Vermillion Cliffs from the pull-out on the Echo Cliffs. I also miss stopping there to shop for Indian arts and crafts and talking with the Navajo ladies selling them.
ADOT is ahead of schedule on reconstructing the damaged section of US 89. A plan has been completed along with required environmental studies. A new easement from the Navajo Nation is being negotiated and construction will begin shortly.
The newly paved Navajo 20 may prove to be a better route for some travelers. It is an easier road to navigate for large trucks and for people towing their boats to Lake Powell. I expect both roads will continue to be used once the repairs to US 89 are completed.
If you are planning a trip to Page you can rest assured that there is a good road to get you there. Be sure to check out the Page-Lake Powell Tourism website for a run down on all there is to do there.