October 18, 2010

Massive Bridge To Open This Month Over Colorado River

The Hoover Dam now is neighbor to a massive bridge held up by the longest arch in the Western Hemisphere.

The Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge will open this month to help connect Arizona and Nevada traffic, which is split by the Colorado River.

Officials said the 1,900-foot-long structure will reroute traffic off of the Hoover Dam, helping to improve jams and protect the dam from terrorist threats.

The new bridge is the seventh highest bridge in the world at 890 feet above the Colorado River. 

"The Hoover Dam is the greatest civil engineering achievement in America's history," bypass bridge project manager Dave Zanatell with the Federal Highway Administration told AFP News.

"Our goal was not to outdo or outshine it. Our goal was to, in a respectful way, do something that would be great for our generation and that would stand besides Hoover Dam in a respectful and quality way that would become a part of Hoover's legacy."

The $240 million bridge was built in five years by 1,200 laborers and 300 engineers.

The dam and bridge are "two engineering wonders constructed at times when our country was looking at itself and wondering what the future held," Colleen Dwyer of the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the dam, told AFP.

"We're looking at what can be done even at these worst of times to make these wonderful structures come to be, to create something new and different which enables America to keep moving ahead. That's the parallel."

The bridge contains 16 million pounds of steel, 30,000 cubic yards of concrete and two million feet of cable.

The idea for the bridge originated in the 1960s because the Hoover Dam has been a narrow two-lane road, but is the fastest route from Arizona to Las Vegas.

Tourists will be able to park in a designated lot on the Nevada side of the bridge and climb stairs to walk the bridge, which has a sidewalk on the side facing the dam.

"It makes me feel good as an American," Jerry Couden told AFP, who is a residential general contractor from Milford, Connecticut, who, like millions of Vegas tourists each year, made the 30 miles drive southeast.

"Look what we did then (building the dam) and now look at what this is. It's a tremendous feat. It is cool to see."


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