Tonto National Forest officials announced today that initial exploration and analysis is beginning for a multi-bridge replacement and rehabilitation project along National Forest System Road 64 and Forest Highway 51 (also referred to as the Control Road), north of Payson.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Central Federal Lands Highway Division (CFLHD), in cooperation with the United States Forest Service and Gila County, is preparing to begin environmental and design studies for a project to study seven bridges located on the Control Road in Payson Ranger District.
“People will see some drilling rigs in the next month or so along the Control Road as part of this analysis,” stated Payson district ranger Ed Armenta.
“The purpose of the project is to address safety, structural, and or operational issues at seven bridges along the Control Road, as well as one low water crossing in Tonto Village. Until we get results from this initial analysis, we really won’t have any further information, including whether any roads will be closed during the project.”
“I have directed the design team to make every effort to minimize the amount of time and project duration that the public is inconvenienced during construction,” continued Armenta.
“This is a very special funding opportunity to get this work done and we need to take advantage of it.”
“I would not expect to see dollars for this project again in my lifetime,” said Gary Hanna, lead forest engineer.
“In today’s economic conditions, we are extremely fortunate to receive this funding. This has been on our forest maintenance to-do list for a long time.”
The seven bridges are being evaluated for potential replacement or rehabilitation in order to bring them up to more acceptable design standards.
The bridges cross Weber Creek, Bonita Creek, Moore Creek, Perley Creek, Lewis Creek, Ellison Creek and Roberts Draw. Originally constructed in the 1930s, the narrow one-lane bridges have widths that create potentially unsafe conditions for the traveling public, logging trucks and emergency vehicles.
These bridges are approaching the limits of their original structural design life and are unable to safely carry today’s vehicles over the long term.
The Control Road also serves as a fuel break and fire control road, and good access is needed for firefighting activities to provide long-term safety for residents and recreational users.
The project also includes replacement or rehabilitation of the low water crossing on the Control Road in Tonto Village, which becomes impassable during and following large precipitation events or heavy snowmelt.
The planning and design phases of the project, including the necessary field surveys and geotechnical drilling, are expected to begin in late June or early July, and the anticipated construction may begin as early as spring 2011.