Highway 87 will remain closed indefinitely despite a notice on the ADOT Web site indicating it will reopen on March 28, said officials with the Arizona Department of Transportation.
"The Web site is requiring us to have an end date for the closure," ADOT Public information Officer Bill Williams said. "But we have no plans to reopen it on March 28 at this time."
He said technicians are working to fix the problem with the Web site.
"People wanting accurate up-to-date information on Highway 87 should use ADOT's 511 phone number instead of the Web site," Williams said.
"We've been pulling our hair out over this because we don't want people to think the highway is open when it isn't," he said.
Williams said some additional signage has been placed along Highways 60 and 188 informing motorists of the closure and detours.
DPS is recommending the following alternate routes:
"Motorists traveling north should use either Highway 60 through Globe or I-17 north to Highway 260 from Camp Verde to Payson," Williams said.
"This is also the recommended route for those traveling southbound from northern parts of the state," he added.
The reason ADOT officials are hesitant to predict when the highway might reopen is because they are not sure how much work it will take to repair the affected section of highway about 20 miles south of Payson.
Last Friday, March 21, a landslide near Sunflower on Highway 87 caused sections of the pavement to buckle, prompting ADOT to close the highway in both directions Friday evening.
"The section affected by the landslide near milepost marker 224 is a couple hundred feet high and a couple hundred yards long, so we're talking about a significant amount of dirt that has to be removed," said Williams.
He said crews had already removed several hundred thousand cubic yards of dirt since Friday evening.
Williams said that after engineers made an assessment of damage to the roadway, motorist safety was ADOT's first concern.
"With the amount of damage from the landslide, our priority became the safety of the traveling public and we determined that it was in their best interest to close the highway until further notice," said Williams.
After a meeting Williams had with engineers Monday at about noon, he said they know what the extent of the damage is, but still could not make a prediction about when the highway might be reopened.
"Even when we do reopen the highway it will likely be in stages where we will shift traffic from the west (southbound) side of Highway 87 to the east (northbound) side," Williams said.
If crews can shift traffic to the northbound lanes of Highway 87 it will open only one lane in each direction for roughly less than a one-mile stretch, he said.
Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce Manager John Stanton said getting the highway reopened is a concern for him.
"So far it doesn't seem to be affecting us," he said. "Right now it is business as usual."
He said he is however concerned about long term effects if ADOT is unable to reopen the highway for an extended period.
"We have our car show the end of next month and other events that could be affected if Highway 87 stays closed," Stanton said.
He said the chamber might send out press releases to the Valley telling them it is business as usual in Rim Country and they can still get here using alternate routes.
"The (chamber) board is aware of the situation and we are talking with the town and business folks to try and determine potential impact and address that immediately," said Stanton.
The closure of Highway 87 south of Payson has not had much of an impact on Payson Regional Medical Center, said Cory Houghton, the marketing director for the hospital.
"Our emergency room is not as busy as it has been lately, so the staff has the time to assess the need for transportation," Houghton said.
Essentially the PRMC ER is operating as normal, the patient's condition is the determining factor in whether to transport them to a Valley hospital in an ambulance or by helicopter.
The closure is not having an impact on supplies for the hospital. The delivery services, such as FedEx and UPS, are adjusting their departure times in order to get supplies to the hospital in a timely manner, even though drive times are longer with the detours, Houghton said.