HOOVER DAM - Pedestrians will be the first people to cross the new Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge. The Project Management Team - a conglomerate of the Federal Highway Administration, Arizona and Nevada Departments of Transportation, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service and the Western Area Power Administration - is planning a special grand opening from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Oct. 16 just for pedestrians. The Bridging America event will include information about the construction of the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, activities for children, and the bridge will be open to the public for the first time. Only pedestrians will be allowed on the bridge at that time.
The entire project is on schedule and on budget, according to Federal Highway Administration Project Manager Dave Zanetell. Motorists should be able to cross the bridge in early November once the final $7 million in signing, lane striping, barriers, lighting, paving and roadway tie-ins are completed.
The entire $240 million project consists of 3.5 miles of four-lane highway leading to the bridge; a 900-foot bridge
on the Arizona side; a new traffic exchange at U.S. 93 and Kingman Wash Road; wildlife crossings; trail access parking; drainage structures; the nearly 2,000-foot long Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge; six bridges on the Nevada side; a new traffic exchange at the Hacienda Casino; retaining walls and a river mountain loop trail extension.
The project is designed to reroute U.S. 93 to take motor vehicle traffic off of the crest of Hoover Dam. It will also minimize the potential for pedestrian/vehicle accidents on the dam, remove a traffic bottleneck, reopen the area to truck traffic and decrease the amount of travel time for motorists in the area.
It currently takes about 16 minutes to cross the 6.3 miles of the Arizona and Nevada approaches and the dam when traffic is not stopped, Zanetell said. On high traffic weekends and holidays, it can take more than half an hour to cross the dam. The new bridge, set up at 55-mph, would reduce the distance to 5.5 miles and about 6 minutes of travel, he said.
Currently, more than 2,100 trucks are routed 23 miles or more around the dam due to national security reasons, Zanetell said. Traffic over the dam currently exceeds 15,000 vehicles a day. It is expected to climb to more than 26,000 vehicles in 2027. Once the bridge is open to motor vehicle traffic, trucks and other vehicles will be able to travel a more direct route from Phoenix to Las Vegas.
The bridge will also reduce the possibility of pedestrian/vehicle accidents. Since 1964, more than 500 accidents have occurred between Nevada milepost 2.2 and Arizona milepost 1.2, a 3.4-mile stretch of highway that includes the dam, according to the Project Management Team. At least two of those accidents were fatal.
Work on the project started in the fall of 2003 with the $10 million relocation of electrical transmission lines by the Western Area Power Administration. The Arizona approach to the bridge cost $21.5 million and was completed in December 2004 by R.E. Monks Construction and Vastco, Inc. The Nevada approach cost $30.1 million and was completed in November 2005 by Edward Kraemer & Sons, Inc.
Obayashi Corporation and PSM Construction USA, Inc. started the $114 million Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge in 2005. The central arch of the bridge is the longest concrete arch in North America at 1,060 feet, and soars 890 feet above the Colorado River, Zanetell said. The bridge reaches 277 feet above the top of the dam. The project also includes a pedestrian parking area, walkway and plaza on the Nevada side.
O'Callaghan was a former Nevada governor and executive editor of the Las Vegas Sun newspaper. He died in 2004.
Tillman was a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Arizona State University and was one of the university's leading defensive football players. He played with the Arizona Cardinals after college and then joined the Army in 2002. He was killed in April 2004 during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
The project was funded by $100 million in federal funds from the National Corridor Planning and Development Funds, Public Lands Discretionary Funds and general U.S. Departments of Transportation funds. Arizona and Nevada also chipped in $120 million to the project; $100 million in bonds and $20 million from each state. According to Zanetell, approximately $96.3 million of the bonds have been repaid.
For more information on Hoover Dam Bypass Project, visit www.hooverdambypass.org. For more information on the Bridging America pedestrian event on the bridge and to RSVP, visit www.celebratehooverbridge.com.