Construction on dam bypass bridge to begin in 2002

The Hoover Dam bypass and bridge project is one step closer to reality.

The bridge and highway are being designed by HDR Associates with a late 2002 construction start anticipated, said Dave Zanetell, project manager.

Zanetell is responsible for delivery of the project to the states of Nevada and Arizona through the Central Federated Lands Highway Division (CFLHD) of the Federal Highway Administration.

"We have $118 million of the $200 to $215 million projected cost in the bank," Zanetell said.

"It is extremely unusual to have funding for initial construction in place at this stage."

The Record of Decision establishing the Sugarloaf Mountain route as the selected alternative was made in March 2001 opening the way for selection of a design firm.

The ROD is the final step in planning, site selection and environmental assessment before the project goes into design and construction.

The bypass and bridge are needed to alleviate traffic jams at the dam which is also a major tourist attraction.

The bridge will be located three-tenths of a mile below Hoover Dam and 830 feet above the Colorado River, or 250 feet higher than the top of the dam.

The project includes the 1,900-foot bridge, a 2.2-mile approach on the Nevada side and a 1.1-mile approach on the Arizona side of the river.

Arizona Department of Transportation engineers will design and build the four-lane portion of U.S.

Highway 93 that connects the bridge approach at the crest of the hill above Hoover Dam at Mile Post 1 with the four-lane section of Highway 93 at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area boundary.

ADOT Kingman District Engineer Debra Brisk said her agency will work with the National Park Service on the section from mile post 1 just above Hoover Dam to mile post 17 at the park boundary where the four-lane divided portion of U.S.

93 now ends.

"We will be working with the park service to mitigate environmental issues in the area," she said.

"We will use some of the area already scarred route from previous roadways.

It is possible that some of the old roads could become ATV or bike trails.

Several trailheads are already in the area from the dam to Willow Beach.

The construction is in a national park and recreation goals will be part of the planning."

Public hearings on the ADOT portion are scheduled to begin later in 2001 with the hearings held over an 18-month period.

"We will be doing the required environmental studies at the same time," she said.

"The bighorn sheep will get extra attention in the area."

Brisk said she would like to see the section complete by the time the Hoover Dam Bridge is scheduled to open in 2007.

That would require accelerated scheduling for the project, now first mentioned for 2006 ADOT five-year plan.

The Nevada Department of Transportation is responsible for connecting with the bridge approach ending at the Hacienda Casino and routing thorough Boulder City to connect to the four-lane U.S.

93 south of Henderson.

Zanetell said the bridge bypass at Hoover Dam presents two unique challenges.

"It requires an extremely high level of engineering expertise for actual construction with the steep terrain and the need to make a minimum environmental footprint," he said.

"The second challenge is bringing together the many groups involved.

My job is getting everyone together plus finding the best engineering."

The bridge has been in various phases of planning since 1960, according to a chronology provided by CFLHD.

The Hoover Power Plant Act of 1984 first authorized the project.

The project was put on hold in 1995 with governors and Congress appealing for a restart in 1997.

Public hearings, consultation with American Indian Tribes since 2000, consultation with state historic preservation offices and several environmental studies preceded the Final Environmental Impact Study released in Jan.

2001.

"There could be delays," Zanetell said.

"It is my job to prevent that.

We have a good team of people involved and a strategy to keep the project on schedule for completion in 2007."