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Sat, May 30

ADOT shoulder widening north and south of Tusayan on schedule

Construction of shoulders north and south of Tusayan is on schedule to be completed by mid-August. The shoulders provide an additional eight feet to both sides of Highway 64. Loretta Yerian/WGCN

Construction of shoulders north and south of Tusayan is on schedule to be completed by mid-August. The shoulders provide an additional eight feet to both sides of Highway 64. Loretta Yerian/WGCN

TUSAYAN, Ariz. - A shoulder construction and widening of Highway 64 immediately north and south of Tusayan is on schedule and should be completed by late summer, according to Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) officials.

Fann Construction, out of Prescott, Arizona, received the bid for the project earlier this year. ADOT project lead Mike Thom said excavating is the first phase of the project and is on track. Dirt taken from the project is being taken to the Sport's Complex Center in Tusayan and will be used to level and construct a baseball field. The dirt is being provided to the town free of charge, in exchange for parking construction vehicles at the complex.

"They had a need to expose of their excess dirt and we had a need for excess dirt," said Eric Duthie, Tusayan town manager. "We need somewhere in the area of about 60,000 yards of fill dirt in order to raise the level of the ball fields to make it level. They're delivering it, setting it and compacting it to no cost to the town."

Duthie said the excess dirt from the shoulder work will give the town around 25,000 yards of fill to be used toward the future leveling project.

Excavation on the shoulders should last about two more weeks. After that ADOT will implement phase two, which should complete the project.

Thom said the project's goal is to build a safe pullout for traffic. ADOT believes constructing eight-foot wide shoulders, to go along with continuous 12-foot-wide travel lanes, between mileposts 234-235 (near Grand Canyon Airport) and mileposts 236-237 north of Tusayan between the town and national park entrance gates. The project will not continue through the town of Tusayan.

ADOT said one lane of traffic will be open at all times and work would not be done on weekends or holidays.

While construction of the shoulders may cause heavy summer traffic into and out of the park to slow down, ADOT said delaying the project until the fall would be too much of a risk when it came to inclement weather.

"Right now we are in accelerated mode because we want to pave it and be done with it by the middle of August," Thom said. "We want to get done with (major construction) by then because then we'll just need to paint it, stripe it and seal it. That's why we're working five days a week."

In order to meet that timeline, crews will need to finish excavation, pave and lay a friction course - a half inch rubber layer which improves wet weather driving conditions by allowing the water to drain through its porous structure away from the road. The improved surface drainage reduces hydroplaning, reduces splash and spray behind vehicles, improves wet pavement friction and reduces traffic noise.

The friction course needs to be on the pavement before the weather changes or gets too cold or else it will not stick properly and could pop up during colder months.

Thom said upcoming monsoon conditions could effect the project but said they hope to at least have the pavement on the road by mid-August.

Fann has five laborers, four operators and eight haul trucks working on the project.

In the past, National Park staff stated their concern over increased visitation and long wait lines at park entrance gates. To help offset congestion, the park hired 20 employees specifically to work the front gates and said they planned to have all six entrance gates open to help minimize wait time.

To help minimize traffic delays, which Thom said has not been an issue for construction, ADOT plans to finish excavation north of town first.

"We are trying to get out of the north part of the project early," he said. "We know that it backs up and we want to get out of there so there is no construction there."

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