KINGMAN - Since heavy storms swept the region several weeks ago, motorists traveling between Kingman and Bullhead City have had to dodge a gauntlet of potholes along U.S. Highway 93 and State Route 95. Fortunately for them, however, the Arizona Department of Transportation is set to begin filling in many of the worst offenders starting this week.
According to ADOT Kingman district spokeswoman Michele Beggs, ADOT crews will take to the roads starting this morning with U.S. 93 at Coyote Pass.
"We noticed them after that first storm system coming through last month, and we've ordered emergency materials to repair the potholes there," Beggs said. "U.S. 93 of course is a priority, though the crews are working to repair all the major roadways at this time. But U.S. 93 and State Route 95 seem to have been hit the hardest."
While no schedule has been established, Beggs said U.S. 93 and SR 95 out of Bullhead are likely to be ADOT's main focus in the district.
"We're repairing the most hazardous potholes, that's a priority," she said. "There are some that are very deep, some worse than others."
For the foreseeable future, Beggs said, road crews will be working from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, which will result in temporary lane restrictions.
"We're asking motorists to just obey the posted signs and note that our crews will be out there," she said.
Beggs added that ADOT was included in the state's request for emergency disaster relief funds submitted to the federal government two weeks ago. If approved, the funds may go to assist the agency in paying for its pothole repair operations, though in general, highway maintenance is not eligible for federal funding.
The potholes on U.S. 93 are yet another symptom of ADOT's dwindling maintenance budget, which has been hit hard by state funding sweeps and declines in gas tax revenues over the last year. According to Beggs, roughly $500 million in transportation funding has been diverted to address the state's gaping budget deficit, and a two-year hiring freeze has forced the agency to scale back routine services. These have included the closure of more than a dozen highway rest areas statewide, as well as the pending closure of 11 of the state's 61 Motor Vehicle Division offices, which has been finalized for Feb. 12.
"ADOT is currently facing a $100 million budget shortfall that requires reductions in services, highway construction, highway maintenance and staff," Beggs said. "Like most state agencies, ADOT has been under a hiring freeze since 2008 that has reduced its workforce through attrition by 10 percent, or 480 positions. We've reached a point now where drivers are noticing the cuts."
In addition to hindering the agency's ability to conduct routine services, the state revenue cuts have also affected ADOT's ability to fund local transportation projects, such as the Rancho Santa Fe/Rattlesnake Wash traffic interchange in Kingman. For that project alone, ADOT had to cut its anticipated assistance to the City of Kingman from $18 million to just $5 million, leaving both parties at a loss as to how to fund the remainder of the interchange's $38.4 million estimated cost.
The interchange is one of several local transportation projects that has been submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation to be considered for a discretionary Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant. If approved, the grant would pay for the project in full, but with nearly 1,400 other projects nationwide competing for just $1.5 billion in actual grant money, the odds of any local project making the final cut is less than 3 percent.
Regardless, the USDOT is expected to announce the lucky grant recipients sometime this month, prior to its statutory deadline of Feb. 17.