By Nick Worth
The rehabilitation work on the historic Chevelon Canyon Bridge, located between Holbrook and Winslow on Territorial Road, is now nearing completion. The project has been on Navajo County’s “to do” list for at least 10 years, but a lack of funds always saw it being delayed.
In an interview with The Tribune-News in April of this year, Navajo County Engineer and Assistant Public Works Director William Bess and county Civil Engineer Bryan Cook said the bridge restoration project was originally started prior to June 2002 and has gone through multiple attempts to get to the construction stage.
The county did go to bid on the job in 2006, but all the bids came in too high. At that time, the cost of the restoration was estimated at $503,800, but one bid was more than double that estimate at $1,257,711 and the other was more than triple at $1,680,415. So the project was put on hold until additional money could be found. Several more delays occurred along the way until at last, this year, the county was again able to go out for bid on the job, with additional money in the coffers from the federal government in the form of bridge rehabilitation funds.
Public Works Director and Assistant County Manager Homero Vela said since the money comes from the federal government, it is administered through the Northern Arizona Council of Governments (NACOG) and since it is federal money the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) has to be the one to put it out to bid and oversee the project.
Vela said the federal rehab money comes from gasoline taxes we pay every time we fill up our vehicles.
“Eighteen cents of each gallon of gas goes into the Highway Users Revenue Fund (HURF),” said Vela. “The other 18 cents goes to the federal government for maintenance of highways and bridges.”
When the county, through ADOT, went out to bid on the bridge this time, they were in for a pleasant surprise.
“The bid came in below the engineering estimate by about 20 percent,” said Vela. He said the winning bid by Technology Construction, Inc. (TCI) of Prescott was $1,039,377.
“Of that, Navajo County is paying $75,528,” Vela said. “We’re paying a very small portion. The rest is federal money for bridge rehabilitation. After 10 years it finally became affordable and we finally got the federal money.”
According to Cook the bridge is the second oldest bridge in Arizona and was built in 1913 as part of the old transcontinental route highway, which pre-dated Route 66. Vela added that the bridge scored 94 out of 100 points for the Arizona Historic Bridge Inventory.
That historical rating has had a big effect on the current project.
“We’re trying to keep the historical aspect of the bridge intact,” Vela said. “The work being done is more structural in nature.” The work involved in the project included deck replacement, steel repairs, abutment modifications and repairs, repainting of the bridge including lead abatement and other related work.
Vela said the bridge steel has already received a new coat of paint and last week TCI lifted the entire bridge in the air with jacks in order to work on the bearings.
Vela said Territorial Road leading to the bridge has been closed off to traffic while the work is underway.
He also noted that while ADOT chose the contractor and oversees the project, Navajo County also oversees the project as owners of the structure.
“When completed at the end of December, we will have increased the bridge’s carrying capacity from seven tons to 20 tons and extended the life of the bridge at least another 50 years,” said Vela. “And we will have maintained the historical nature of the bridge intact.”
Vela and Cook said the bridge project is a source of pride for the Public Works Department.
“We’re proud of both securing the federal funding and the nature of the project itself,” Vela said. He added that the road will immediately be opened to traffic once the project is completed.
By Nick Worth