An accident this weekend east of Star Valley that sent two people to the hospital closed State Route 260 for several hours and renewed pleas among local officials to the state to widen the roadway.

The incident started around 6:30 p.m. when a westbound pickup truck reportedly crashed into a tree near milepost 259, said Lt. Tim Scott with the Gila County Sheriff’s Office.

The male driver was reportedly uninjured, but the accident injured two female passengers. Paramedics airlifted one woman to a Valley trauma center and took the other to Banner Payson Medical Center, said Hellsgate Fire Chief John Wisner.

The Arizona Department of Transportation closed both lanes of the highway which resulted in heavy backup.

Somewhere amongst the backup, a vehicle crashed into another vehicle. No one was injured, but it required Payson to send an engine and additional paramedics and police officers, Wisner said. Officers cited a driver for failure to control speed, Scott said.

With the roadway closed in both directions, Wisner said the Hellsgate district was effectively cut in half and if there had been an emergency east of the wreck, crews would not have been able to reach it.

“This is something we have been dealing with for years,” he said.

ADOT reopened the roadway around 9 p.m.

For years, local officials have pushed ADOT to widen the Lion Springs Section of East Highway 260 to four lanes. It is the only section of the roadway that is still two lanes between Payson and the top of the Mogollon Rim.

Despite the requests from local officials, the State Transportation Board did not include the project in the 2020-2024 Five-Year Construction Program.

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