BOULDER CITY, Nev. – A soaring bridge that will let drivers bypass Hoover Dam – and steer clear of its security checkpoints and gawking tourists – is set to open after nearly eight years and $240 million worth of work.
The 1,900-foot engineering wonder perched 890 feet above the Colorado River is expected to drastically cut travel time along the main route between Las Vegas and Phoenix.
“I know that the Hoover Dam is one of the wonders of the world,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said at a dedication ceremony Thursday. “I don’t know who gives that designation, but I hope the bridge will become another wonder of the world.”
LaHood and a delegation of government officials, including Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, heralded the span linking the Silver and Grand Canyon states as a crucial example of work being done nationwide to update the country’s infrastructure.
LaHood said the bypass is one of 15,000 transportation projects that include updating 4,000 miles of road.
The bridge, which officially opens next week, is named for former Nevada Gov. Mike O’Callaghan and Pat Tillman, the former NFL player who quit the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army Rangers and died under friendly fire in Afghanistan.
Cars previously were routed across Hoover Dam to cross the border between Arizona and Nevada, and checkpoints added after the 9/11 attacks often caused miles-long backups. Federal officials also heavily restricted the types of vehicles and cargo that could cross the dam.
The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates the new four-lane bridge will cut at least 30 minutes from the trip.
Those going to the dam will no longer be able to pass over it to cross the border by car, though it will remain open as a tourist attraction.