The Investigators

Jan 31, 2013 11:59 PM

Numerous crashes on a popular Arizona highway

TUCSON - Hitting the road on your vacation shouldn't be a matter of life and death. But some folks say a stretch of Arizona highway leading to the mountains is too treacherous.

They're talking about a section of S.R. 260 east of Payson. The area is a popular place for camping and fishing.

Bill and Bridget Lach had the scare of their lives on the 260 last fall.

"You know we're coming home. We're going slow. We're taking it nice."

Bridget was the one driving that day. Because they were pulling a trailer, they kept their speed 10 miles below the posted limit.

"The trailer caught the bump. Fish tailed into the guardrail," Bridget recounts. "Swung our truck around and threw us over into a ravine in the center divider."

They crashed at mile post 273.6. The Lachs say there's a bump between the roadway and bridge at Christopher Creek.

"If we would have gone through the guard rail that would have been all she wrote. We would have been dead," says Bill.

They were not injured in the crash but the pickup was totaled. So was their trailer.

And Bridget tells us when DPS arrived on scene they told her something she wouldn't forget. Picking up a hub cap an officer told them it was from the last accident, in the same location, just a few weeks prior.

The tow truck operator said the same thing. Accidents are happening more often in a particular section of SR 260 than in other areas.

The investigators filed a public records request from D.P.S. Here are the number of crashes in the same area where the Lach's had their accident:

  • Jan 1-Dec. 31 2011: S.R. 260 Milepost 271 through 275: 9 single vehicle accidents.
  • Jan 1-Nov 7 2012: S.R. 260 Milepost 271 through 275: 11 single vehicle accidents.

(Additional accidents were reported involving more than one vehicle and accidents where alcohol might have played a factor. There were also additional accidents involving elk.)

The Investigators made the drive up north where we talked to Wayne Loy with Garivn's Towing. Wayne is the tow truck operator who helped Bridget and Bill.

"It seems like at most of the bridges, the smaller bridges, there's a hump just before you get to it, that always either sets you in the air or makes you steer a little extra just to stay on the road."

Wayne says ADOT installed bump signs at some spots but crashes still happen.

He also tells the investigators he's been reporting the problem to ADOT for years.

"And they tell me that unless there's a certain amount of fatalities they don't change the condition of the road. The accidents are ok."

In response, ADOT issued the following statements via two emails:

The Arizona Department of Transportation has been taking steps to address the issue of asphalt settling on some bridge approaches on State Route 260. However, the roads meet current design standards and our maintenance crews continually monitor the highway to make sure they are safe for motorists.

Since the late 1990s, ADOT has invested heavily in the SR 260 corridor and has been working toward completing a four-lane divided highway between Star Valley and the top of the Mogollon Rim. The current Doubtful Canyon project (mileposts 269-272), which is scheduled for completion this spring, is the fifth of six planned projects for the area, while the Christopher Creek (mileposts 272-277) project was completed in 2004. In all, ADOT has invested more than $100 million to convert the two-lane roadway to a modern four-lane divided highway.

ADOT has planned improvements to some of the bridge approaches in the area, and they will be completed as funding becomes available. The first took place last fall when ADOT completed an approach slab reconstruction project near Kohl's Ranch (milepost 267).

Dustin Krugel
Public Information Officer
Arizona Department of Transportation

Safety is our top priority. We take proactive engineering measures to identify and address safety in our highway design, construction and operations. If a segment of highway was deemed unsafe, we would not allow motorists to continue to use it.

As previously stated, ADOT has planned improvements to some of the bridge approaches in the area. Over the last decade, ADOT has invested over $100 million on new construction (does not include maintenance costs) on State Route 260 east of Payson to improve the corridor, by upgrading it from a two-lane roadway to a modern four-lane highway in some sections, and additional improvements are planned as funding becomes available.

It's important to remember driver behavior is still the No. 1 factor in highway safety. And drivers can have the greatest impact on reducing crashes by 1) not speeding; 2) not driving while impaired, drowsy or distracted and 3) buckling up.

Dustin Krugel
Public Information Officer
Arizona Department of Transportation


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