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April 24, 2014

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Hoover Dam bypass bridge opens to traffic

Image

Sam Morris

A tourist takes photos with the recently opened Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge in the background Wednesday, October 20, 2010.

Updated Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010 | 6:23 p.m.

Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge Opens

The recently opened Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge is framed by the Hoover Dam Wednesday, October 20, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Dedication of Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge

The Hoover Dam bypass bridge is officially completed. Federal and state dignitaries from Nevada and Arizona dedicated the 1,900-foot-long bridge Thursday, October 14, 2010.

The Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, the western hemisphere’s longest single-span concrete arch bridge, officially opened Tuesday night.

The 1,900-foot-long bridge is part of a $240 million, four-lane bypass that will reroute traffic for 3.5 miles from the two-lane bottleneck on U.S. 93 across the Hoover Dam.

National Park Service spokesman Andrew Munoz said the northbound lanes of the bridge opened about 9 p.m. Tuesday in Arizona and the bridge fully opened at 10 p.m.

Security concerns after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks led authorities to ban commercial trucks from traveling across the dam, forcing truck drivers on the route to use a 75-mile detour.

The new Hoover Dam bypass will shorten the route for commercial shippers along the major trade corridor and reduce traffic congestion. Officials estimate the bridge will reduce the average trip between Las Vegas and Phoenix by more than 30 minutes. The speed limit on the bridge and bypass is 55 mph.

The bridge is named for Mike O’Callaghan, a former Nevada governor and executive editor of the Las Vegas Sun, and Pat Tillman, an Arizona Cardinals football player who joined the Army and was killed in Afghanistan. Both died in the spring of 2004.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood dedicated the bridge in a Thursday ceremony last week and thousands of people attended a public celebration Saturday.

The bridge offers a unique view of the Hoover Dam, but only for people who get out and walk across the bridge. For passengers in most cars, the bridge’s sidewalls are too high to see the dam or much of anything else, helping to prevent people from slowing down or stopping on the bridge’s travel lanes.

But a public parking lot off the old U.S. 93 route near the dam has a path that leads to a sidewalk on the north side of the bridge for people to admire the view.

The old road over the Hoover Dam is open for tourists who want to drive across the dam and use the parking lots on the Arizona side of the river, but visitors will have to drive back across the dam and up to the interchange near the Hacienda Casino to get back onto U.S. 93. The highway no longer connects to the dam in Arizona.

Transportation officials have also issued warnings for motorists who use the bridge.

Because of the cool air under the bridge, officials said the bridge is more likely to be slippery and have icy spots than a regular roadway in the winter.

The canyon is also an area that frequently has high winds, officials said. High-profile vehicles such as trucks, RVs, campers and buses will not be allowed on the bridge if winds are more than 50 mph. Advisories will be posted on digital message signs near the bridge when needed, officials said.

While the main bypass project is complete, work on U.S. 93 in Arizona will continue until the end of the year, officials said.

Arizona is widening 15 miles of U.S. 93 south of the bridge. Once that project is done, U.S. 93 will be a four-lane highway from just outside Boulder City to Wickenburg, Ariz., about 200 miles away, officials said.

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  1. Chunky says:

    Happy Day and he looks forward to a trip over the bridge!

    Thanks to all the workers and people who made this project a reality. Chunky takes back all the bad things he muttered in the past while waiting in traffic jams to cross the dam during construction.

    That's what Chunky thinks!

  2. What an amazing feat of planning and construction! I can hardly wait for my first trip across it. Thanks to everyone that made this happen.

  3. I wonder how much time the bridge will save? Any guesses?

  4. JerryWayne,

    We just updated the story with some info on that, but here's a little more detail:

    Officials said the bridge will save a minimum of 10 minutes, but that is based on there being no traffic on the dam, which almost never happens. The real time savings will be 30-60 minutes, officials said. The new route is almost a mile shorter than the dam route and has a 55 mph speed limit instead of the crawl across the dam, plus no security checkpoint.

  5. I don't think US 93 will be complete as a 4-lane highway all the way to Wickenburg. I think there are still segments from Interstate 40 to Wikieup and from the Santa Maria River to Wickenburg that are still two lanes.

    (And, if I'm wrong, then US 93/60 is four lanes from Boulder City all the way to Phoenix.)

  6. According to the AZDot webpage, there are still several sections of US-93 between I-40 and Wikieup that are scheduled to be upgraded to 4-lane highway between now and 2014.

    http://www.us93corridor.com/Highways/Pro...

    Once those are done, it'll be four lanes from I-40 to the Santa Maria River, north of Wickenburg. We probably wont see any more widening on 93 from there until the I-11 project officially picks up because the proposed corridor branches off in that area (bypassing Wickenburg entirely) and will run south down into Hassayampa Valley slightly west of the Phoenix metro to the I-10.