Completion of project on nearly 7-mile road planned for next week

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LOWER FRUITLAND — Improvements to a 6.8-mile road that connects the San Juan and Nenahnezad chapters of the Navajo Nation are estimated to be completed next week.

The San Juan County Public Works Department has been working to upgrade the dirt-and-gravel surface of Navajo Route 362 since early February. Nick Porell, deputy administrator for the department, said the road is receiving 4 inches of road base material, then an application of binder material.

"I imagine any road improvement is a good thing," Porell said, adding the project is being completed through an intergovernmental agreement between the county and the Navajo Division of Transportation.

San Juan Chapter President Rick Nez said the upgrade is a welcome development for community members, as its previous surface was rough to drive.

"This was washboard and really awful," Nez said while driving a section of the improved road on Tuesday.

Community members frequently use the road, which runs along the Fruitland Irrigation canal and the Yellowman siphon, to travel between the two chapters.

It also serves as a bus route, and with several farms located along the road, tractors are a common sight.

"This is good for the buses," Nez said.

During the drive, county crew members were seen operating road rollers and a grader to smooth the dirt surface near the irrigation canal.

As a community health representative for the Navajo Department of Health, Maxine Tsosie spends her work day checking on clients in the San Juan and Nenahnezad chapters. She said the road can become impossible to travel when it is muddy. When that is the case, she uses alternative routes or four-wheel drive to reach her clients' residences.

With work near completion, she said the upgrade will ease travel.

"It's easier for me to get to my clients. It's like another highway going off to these farm roads," Tsosie said.

Porell said the road-improvement project in the San Juan Chapter is one of three the county is scheduled to complete on the Navajo Nation. County officials are waiting to receive consent from the tribe's transportation division to start work on projects in Shiprock and in Gadii'ahi, he said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.

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