Posted: Jan 28, 2014 By: Hunter Moore
Holbrook, Ariz.(Jan. 28, 2014) —Navajo County elected officials and leaders gathered with area residents and Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) officials today for a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the official reopening of the historic Chevelon Creek Bridge and Territorial Road.
Once an important crossing on the Santa Fe Highway, the Chevelon Creek Bridge was an integral part of one of America's primary transcontinental routes, which predated Route 66. Constructed in 1913, Chevelon Bridge was completed just one year after Arizona achieved statehood and is one of the state's oldest bridges. With the recent reconstruction undertaken by Navajo County and contractor Technology Construction Inc., of Prescott, with oversight by ADOT and bridge engineer John Gleason, P.E., of AZTEC Engineering, the bridge will accommodate greater traffic loads with safer crossing conditions for at least another 50 years.
Navajo County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jesse Thompson spoke at today's ceremony about the historical significance of Territorial Road, and Supervisor Sylvia Allen discussed the four major bridge construction projects Navajo County has completed in recent years and will continue with in the coming year. Navajo County Public Works Director and Assistant County Manager Homero Vela opened the ribbon cutting ceremony with an overview of the bridge's history and the reconstruction project.
Scoring a 94 of 100 on the National Register of Historic Places, Chairman Thompson related that it was important to those working on the bridge to retain as much of its historic features and character as possible, while increasing weight capacity and safety for travelers.
Restoration and renovations began in August 2013 and included steel repair, replacing the deck, abutment modifications and repairs, and resurfacing and repainting the bridge, including lead abatement. With the deck replacement and other structural reinforcements, the carrying capacity of the bridge increased from seven tons to 20 tons.
“This project was completed on time and within budget but more importantly it was a partnership with ADOT both in project management and acquiring federal funds that helped increase the load capacity of this bridge while maintaining the historical significance,” said Vela.
The reconstruction work was completed in five months, and the bridge and Territorial Road opened to traffic on December 30, 2013. Today, the bridge and roadway is used primarily by ranchers, area landowners and Hopi Tribal members, with light travel between Holbrook or Joseph City and Winslow. In its early days, the road was a major thoroughfare for transcontinental traffic as well as use by local communities, residents of the Hopi Reservation and ranchers. A realignment of the Santa Fe Highway sometime between 1917 and 1924 greatly reduced traffic on the route, and the roadway was re-designated a county road.
“I'm proud that in Navajo County, we recognize the value of preserving, restoring and maintaining these landmarks that have not only historic significance, but value for us today,” said Chairman Thompson.
Supervisor Allen put the Chevelon Bridge reconstruction in the context of other major bridge projects in Navajo County, citing the Woodruff/Snowflake Bridge along the Snowflake-Woodruff Road as the next reconstruction project the county will undertake. The bridge will be able to accommodate larger and heavier vehicles, and the historic quality of the bridge will be preserved. (The bridge was salvaged from the original Winslow Bridge, which was part of Route 66.) In recent years, the county has also restored and improved the historic Obed Bridge near Joseph City, and built the Lone Pine Dam, near Show Low.
Echoing the sentiments she credited to her late brother, former Navajo County Supervisor Lewis Tenney, Allen concluded, “These roads and bridges tie communities together. They give us access to each other. They keep us connected. Thank you to each of you who have worked so hard to make sure we're honoring and preserving our history, but also connecting our communities, and connecting us to one another, for generations to come.”