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ADOT recommends improvements to reopen 5 miles of Apache Trail

Plan is subject to funding availability, emphasizes safety and sustainability.

After extensive study and public input on the feasibility of reopening 5 miles of State Route 88 (Apache Trail) severely damaged by flooding and erosion, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is recommending improvements estimated to cost $33.5 million that would be needed to restore access safely and sustainably. 

There currently is no funding identified for a project on this unpaved stretch east of the Phoenix area (East Valley), though ADOT is seeking federal funding. The recommendation contained in ADOT’s Final Design Concept Report would be the basis for design and construction when future funding is identified.

“Subject to funds becoming available, we are proposing improvements that would reduce the chances of future damage from storms and enhance safety for motorists,” said Paul Patane, ADOT Multimodal Planning Division director. “We understand State Route 88’s place in the hearts of many Arizonans and have a recommendation that prioritizes safety and responsible use of taxpayer dollars.”

SR 88 closed in 2019 between Fish Creek Hill Overlook and Apache Lake Marina Road (mileposts 222-229) when torrential rain onto the adjacent Woodbury Fire scar extensively damaged the gravel roadway and left a section blocked by boulders. The storm also damaged the drainage system, guardrail and bridge approaches and left unstable rock faces, creating safety issues and making the road vulnerable to additional damage and closures.

Funded by a legislative appropriation, the State Route 88 (Apache Trail) Study received comments from nearly 1,700 Arizonans, the majority of whom supported ADOT’s preferred alternative for reopening the roadway. ADOT’s recommendation was based on public input, as well as evaluation criteria including resilience, cost, feasibility, safety and potential environmental impacts of the improvements that include: 

  • Chip sealing the road surface throughout the 5 miles.

  • Widening the roadway to 15 feet in steeper areas.

  • Adding rock bolts to potentially unstable rock faces and scaling to remove loose and overhanging rock.

  • Increasing drainage capacity to accommodate accommodate 2.25 inches of rain in an hour. 

  • Rehabilitating or repairing existing bridges.

  • Placing new concrete barrier for safety on steep sections. 

  • Adding pullouts, signs and other safety enhancements. 

Traveling between the East Valley and Roosevelt Lake, Apache Trail was built for construction of Theodore Roosevelt Dam, which was completed in 1911. Prior to closing in 2019, the stretch between Tortilla Flat and Apache Lake was used by an average of 232 vehicles daily.

ADOT has performed extensive work to restore access to and improve other damaged sections of SR 88 and made regular repairs when flooding has damaged areas that are open to traffic. Last year, ADOT reopened 1.7 miles west from Apache Lake to restore access to the Reavis Trailhead at milepost 227. An $18 million project is chip-sealing 11 miles between Apache Lake and SR 188 near Theodore Roosevelt Dam. Motorists can safely access Apache Lake and other points on the east side of the closure via SR 188. From the west, SR 88 is open to Fish Creek Vista facilities 9 miles east of Tortilla Flat, which has been accessible throughout via Canyon Lake. 

The next step in advancing a project in the stretch that remains closed would include conducting final design and an extensive environmental study. The latter would be required because this stretch is on an easement through U.S. Forest Service land. That process can be expected to take up to two years. 

ADOT has begun seeking federal funding to advance a project. This includes a pending application through the Federal Highway Administration’s Promoting Reliant Operations for Transformative, Efficient and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Discretionary Grant Program, seeking $3.6 million to be used for design and environmental study.

For more information on the study and SR 88, visit

Read about the history of this area from the Town of Tortilla Flat here.