Friday, August 20, 2010

A Long Way Down

Construction workers check the pedestrian rails on the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge, 900 feet above the Colorado River, connecting Arizona to Nevada on US 93.

Hoover Dam is one of the great engineering marvels on the 20 century. Built at the height of the Great Depression, it created the massive Lake Mead, which has turned into an aquatic playground for Las Vegas, and Lake Havasu, an aquatic playground for Arizona and California. But getting across Hoover Dam on US93 has long been a slow and tortuous drive. 

The approaches are narrow and feature numerous switchbacks. Tourists wandering around the top of the dam make for constant stops and starts and Highway 93 is a part of a NAFTA corridor, currently heavy trucks have to bypass the dam slowing traffic to Las Vegas. Security checkpoints on either side of the dam also slow traffic. It can take an hour to drive from the checkpoint in Arizona to the one in Nevada, and they’re only about 10 miles apart. 

The Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge is supposed to fix that. Motorists who don’t want to dawdle on the dam can just zip across the bridge, bypassing the switchbacks, security checkpoints, pedestrians and rubber neckers. It could (depending on traffic) shorten the drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas by up to an hour. It’s scheduled to open in November of this year. 

Thursday the construction and state authorities let the media wander around the bridge for about 45 minutes to work on construction update stories. It was the middle of the day and the light was terrible but the view was stunning.

There are more photos from the day in my archive.