The $240-million Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge opened to vehicle and foot traffic on Oct. 20th between Arizona and Nevada, 890 ft above the Colorado River.

Last week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood officially christened the “Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge,” which is named after former Nevada Gov. Mike O’Callaghan (1971-79) and professional football star turned soldier Pat Tillman. The sleek, elegant structure stretches across the Black Canyon a quarter-mile downstream from the dam. The 1,960-ft bridge will be North America’s longest single-span concrete arch when it opens to traffic later this month.

“This magnificent bridge is proof positive that America is not afraid to dream big,” says LaHood during the dedication ceremony. “Its economic benefits to the American southwest and the nation as a whole will be felt for generations to come.”

The project created 1,200 direct and indirect jobs, the Federal Highway Administration estimates, adding that the economic impact of not building the bridge would cost $100 million annually. Talks for an alternate route over the dam dates back to the 1960s. U.S. Highway 93 currently runs over the crest of the dam, resulting in congested traffic due to switchbacks and abrupt inclines that create safety concerns. The two-lane roadway is a key route in the North America Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

“The hard work and dedication of the men and women who worked on this bridge honor the legacy of those who built the Hoover Dam 75 years ago,” says Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. “That hard work will now pay off by positively impacting trade and commerce, and strengthening economies in the region.”

Commercial truck traffic had been diverted 23 mi away from the dam as a security measure since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, thereby costing consumers some $30 million annually. Other commercial four-lane routes add an additional 250 miles The new four-lane bridge opens U.S. Highway 93 as a major corridor in the movement of manufactured materials.

“Creating a bypass for the Hoover Dam was not an Arizona problem,” says John Halikowski, director of the Arizona Department of Transportation. “It wasn’t a Nevada problem. But it was a problem that needed to be solved – in order to foster stronger economic connections, and bridge two populations not served by an interstate highway.”

Related to the opening of the bridge, ADOT is finalizing 15 mi of widening along U.S. 93 to the south; that work will be complete before the end of the year. ADOT has already dedicated nearly $500 million to transform many parts of U.S. 93 into a modern four-lane divided highway from Wickenburg to the Hoover Dam.


JULY 1998
CH2M-Hill Inc., Englewood, Colo., completes environmental impact statement for the Hoover Dam Bypass.

MARCH 2001
FHWA issues an EIS record of decision selecting the Sugarloaf Mountain alignment for the crossing.

JULY 2001
FHWA awards a six-year, $22 million design and engineering contract a team led by HDR Inc., Omaha, Neb., with Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., Pasadena, and San Francisco-based T.Y. Lin International.

Design studies begin.

FHWA awards R.E. Monks Construction Inc., Fountain Hills, Ariz., and Chino Valley, Ariz.-based Vastco Inc. a $21.4-million contract for the 1.8-mile-long Arizona approach.

FHWA awards Edward Kraemer & Sons Inc., Plain, Wisc., a $30.1-million contract for the 2.2-mile-long Nevada approach.

JUNE 2004
Western Area Power Administration completes electrical transmission line relocation.

JULY 2004
Delayed reauthorization of the federal highway bill prompts Arizona and Nevada to each pledge $50-million in GARVEE (Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle) bonds to keep the project moving.

FHWA awards $114 contract to the joint-venture partnership of Obayashi Corp., San Francisco, and PSM Construction USA Inc., Brisbane, Calif., for construction of the 1,960-ft-long, 88-ft-wide Colorado River Bridge. In October, R.E. Monks/Vastco also completes the Arizona approach.

Edward Kraemer & Sons finishes the Nevada approach.

Cableway system spanning the Colorado River used to place bridge sections collapses under 55-mph winds. No one is injured. The incident sets the construction schedule back by two years.

FHWA awards $7 million surfacing project to Las Vegas Paving Corp., Las Vegas.

JUNE 2008
Las Vegas Paving Corp. completes interim surfacing.

On Nov. 24, Sherman Jones, 48, of Las Vegas was killed while adjusting an alignment cable supporting the Colorado River Bridge’s twin arches. The cause of his death was lacerations to his chest, heart and liver due to blunt force trauma injuries.

On Aug. 10, the arch portion of the Colorado River Bridge was physically connected. The supporting cable system was removed on Aug. 27.

On Oct. 14, U.S. Secretary Ray LaHood and other dignitaries dedicate the “Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge” named after former Nevada Gov. Mike O’Callaghan (1971-79) and professional football star turned soldier Pat Tillman. On Oct. 20, the bridge opened to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.