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Southwest Adventure, Living & Travel


The Hoover Dam Bridge

Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

photo of Hoover dam from new bridge

The Hoover Dam is an awesome engineering feat. It took five years to complete and was built using three and one-quarter million cubic yards of concrete. That's enough concrete to pave a 16 foot wide road from New York to San Francisco, CA. Since the bypass bridge was finished in October 2010, the Hoover Dam has become even more amazing.

photo new hoover dam bridge

The graceful, concrete arch is designed to support the bridge. Its curved shape spans the gap of Black Canyon. The bridge connects Arizona and Nevada, and creates a faster route across the river. It's open to traffic, and has a sidewalk as part of the pedestrian and visitor amenities, which include a parking lot, trail, and interpretive plaza.

Lake Mead and Hoover Dam video

photo of hoover dam being constructed

When under construction, the bridge was referred to as the Hoover Dam Bypass Project. It is now named the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. O’Callaghan was a former governor of Nevada and former executive editor of the Las Vegas Sun. Tillman was a professional football player for the Arizona Cardinals who joined the Army in 2002 and was killed in Afghanistan in 2004. The Hoover bridge bypass re-routes U.S. 93 traffic 1700 feet downstream from the dam. It's suspended by a 1060 foot, twin-rib concrete arch, the largest of its kind in North America, and is 1900 feet long. The bridge is 890 feet above the Colorado River.

Hoover Dam with the new bridge behind it.

The bridge consists of four lanes and alleviates a number of problems associated with the old U.S. 93 that passed over the Hoover Dam itself. The narrow, winding two-lane road could no longer handle the 14,000 cars that passed over the dam daily causing congestion. The design of the road was dangerous with two hairpin turns, blind curves and pedestrian traffic. There were also vehicle restrictions on the Hoover Dam and loaded trucks and buses with luggage couldn't pass over it. Since 9/11 trucks and other unauthorized vehicles had to go through Laughlin, NV to cross over the Colorado River. Other vehicles were subject to inspection due to increased security. The new bridge speeds up travel across the Colorado River and provides a much safer route.

View taken from the air in summer of 2009.

The bridge portion is only one part of the large project. The approaches to the bridge on both sides have required a lot of money to build and some creative engineering. On the Arizona approach, a 900-foot bridge had to be built due to the terrain crossed, adding $21.5 million in costs to the project. On the Nevada side there were six new bridges built at a cost of $30 million. There is also be a nearby parking and a pedestrian walkway on the bridge that provides spectacular views of the dam from a new perspective.

Photo of walkway on hoover dam bridge

The total estimated project cost was $240 million. It was funded by the federal government ($100 million); by Arizona and Nevada, who each spent $20 million; and the balance will be paid for by bonds. The project was expedited after the tragic 9/11 terrorist attack. Security on the dam became a big issue; this prompted the project's start sooner than originally intended.

Read more about Hoover Dam and attractions close to it:

 


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More about Hoover Dam Bridge and attractions close to it:

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, a bureau within the United States Department of Interior, owns the Hoover Dam and its facilities. U.S. 93 uses the top of the Hoover Dam to cross the Colorado River. This crossing and the highway approaches on both the Nevada and Arizona sides are currently maintained by the Federal government. Because of the federal ownership of the river crossing, federal highway funding for a new river crossing is being pursued. Long-term maintenance and ownership of a new river crossing will be the responsibility of the state DOTs.



Lake Mead and Hoover Dam video
DesertUSA rented a houseboat to explore the western part of Lake Mead. Our first stop was the Hoover Dam off the Boulder Basin. Without Hoover Dam, Lake Mead wouldn't exist today.

Mojave National Preserve Video
Located between Los Angeles and Las Vegas is the Mojave National Preserve, a 1.6 million acre park. Trains pass through this area over rails built by the Union Pacific, leading to Kelso. See the Kelso Depot, built in 1924 and closed in 1985. It has been completely restored, and is now Mojave NP's information center, with museum exhibits and historically furnished rooms.

Road Trips Videos

Exploring Route 66 - Historic Mohave Desert Sites Amboy Road at Sheeps Hole Pass looks into the big basin of Bristol Dry Lake, which was covered by the sea about four million years ago. Across the salt lake, Amboy Dry Crater rises in the distance. The town of Amboy dates back to 1858; it became a critical gas and rest stop on Route 66 after World War II. When I-40 bypassed it in 1972, Amboy almost became a ghost town. Follow the DesertUSA team as they revisit old Route 66 in the Mohave and take a look at some historic sites along the way.

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Titus Canyon, drive through Red Pass

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