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Sun, July 21

Money released for dam bypass

Another $5.9 million for construction of the $2324 million Hoover Dam Bypass was released Wednesday by the U.S.

Department of Transportation.

It is part of the $11.5 million authorization inserted into the 2003 transportation bill by U.S.

Senator Jon Kyl.

The other members of the Arizona delegation joined Kyl's request for additional funding for construction of the bypass.

"This is another step toward realizing our commitment to the Hoover Dam bypass," Kyl said.

"The bypass is not only a national security priority, its construction is essential to easing congestion in the area and helping Arizona businesses transport their goods."

The project has received $126 million to date, just over half the $234 million cost.

Earlier this year, Kyl won passage of legislative language for bonds that allow the construction to go forward even though not all funding is in place.

Completion is scheduled in 2007.

Kyl has pushed for speeded up funding for construction of the bypass because the Sept.

11 terrorist attacks increased security risks at Hoover Dam and forced truck traffic to detour through Golden Valley and Bullhead City on state Route 68.

Commercial trucks now use Route 68 between Kingman and Las Vegas causing accidents and increasing costs in fuel and time for truckers.

Construction began earlier this year on the Arizona approach from U.S.

Highway 93 to the east end of the planned bridge over the Colorado River.

Construction of the interchange can be seen from Highway 93 where the bypass will connect with the existing highway.

The Arizona portion of the bypass extends 1.3 miles from the U.S.

93 interchange to the bridge approach.

The Nevada section from the west end of the bridge to an area near the current security checkpoint is scheduled for bid and construction during the summer.

The bridge will be built after the Arizona and Nevada approaches are in place to allow access to the bridge site by construction equipment.

The steel and concrete arch across the Colorado River about one mile below Hoover Dam will provide spectacular views of the dam and includes a parking area and viewing from a pedestrian walk.

The bypass is expected to relieve congestion from 15,000 vehicles that now cross the dam daily and are slowed by the one million visitors who tour Hoover Dam each year.

Tourists will have the same access to the Hoover Dam sites and tours of the facility without dangerous traffic.

The dam has provided the major Colorado River crossing on Highway 93 for traffic between Las Vegas and Phoenix, two of the fastest growing cities in the country, Traffic problems increase each year with the route designated as a major trade corridor from Mexico to Canada.

Highway officials estimate travel time from Kingman to McCarran Airport in Las Vegas will be reduced by 30 minutes when the bypass is complete.

The 23-mile detour around Hoover Dam through Golden Valley, Bullhead City, Laughlin and Searchlight has been the site of numerous fatal accidents.

The trucking industry has lost an estimated $30 million negotiating the steep grades, narrow roads on the Nevada side and using extra time and fuel for the 23-mile detour, Kyl said.

Hoover Dam was completed in 1935, built by a crew of 5,200 men.

It created the world's largest man-made lake, Lake Mead, behind the engineering marvel.

The bypass will keep the historical roads and artifacts of the original construction in place.

Special care and planning will provide for the local animal and plant life.

The plants have been removed and will be replaced when the bypass is completed.

Security at Hoover Dam has remained tight since the Sept.

11 terror attacks and now includes background checks on all construction employees.

Dave Zanetell, project manager and spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration, said Hoover Dam was never intended to be the major crossing over the Colorado River for traffic on Highway 93, a major north/south highway.

Additional information and updates on progress are available on the Internet at www.hooverdmbypass.org.

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