Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge

Until last October, the only easy way to get from central/south Arizona to Las Vegas was over the Hoover Dam. Finished in 1936, the road on the top of the dam is a curvy, slow two laner, which became heavily congested with traffic as the years went on. Add in mandatory security checkpoints (after 9/11), and bottle-necks and stopped traffic were inevitable. Traveling that route could be an hours-long journey. Semis were not allowed on the dam, so truckers had to find long and costly alternative routes.

Obviously, a plan to bypass this bottleneck was needed. In 2005, construction began on the bridge that would carry the re-routed traffic way above Hoover Dam. Named The Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, it opened to traffic in October 2010.

When we visited Hoover Dam about a year ago, we could see the final pieces of the construction coming into place:

And here is the completed bridge now (from the area of the dam):

We very specifically headed this way so we could drive the new bridge. As we neared Hoover Dam, in the rig and on the bypass, signs directed all high profile vehicles to the lanes closest to the center (presumably so high winds wouldn't push us into Black Canyon). John, driving, could see nothing of the Colorado River, the dam, or Lake Mead. In the passenger seat, this was the best view I got as it whizzed quickly by:

What a disappointment! There wasn't even much of a feeling of being on a bridge. It just seemed like a segment of the road that all of a sudden got very windy, and then we were over it, being greeted by the "Welcome to Nevada" sign (the Colorado River is the border between Arizona and Nevada). Although we could see people to the side on a pedestrian walkway, we didn't see any exits or places to park, so we pushed on to Pahrump. We came back with just the car a couple days later to walk the bridge.

There is a separate parking lot for those wanting to walk the bridge, and, at least for now there is no charge. There are three pull-through parking spots for RVs or busses, a reasonable (but not generous) amount of car parking spots, and four port-a-potties. The lot is accessed from Exit 2 (the exit for Hoover Dam) on the Nevada side, so we had already missed it by the time we crossed the bridge in the rig. Accessing the walkway requires a 45 foot climb using either stairs or a switchback ramp.

Here is what the highway looks like from the pedestrian walkway:

From the bridge, the view of the dam is spectacular:

We watched an MSNBC filming that was using the dam as a backdrop (in the photo above, the stage can be seen in the triangle on the left and is shown in detail in the photo below). We never did find out what show they were filming. Cars were very slowly traveling in both directions, looking very much like a real-life Frogger game:

It was very windy -- so windy that they advised high profile vehicles NOT to use the new bridge, although we saw quite a few semis on it. John rescued a lady's baseball cap as it tried to make a suicidal plunge over the side, and we saw another cap far down on the rocks that wasn't so lucky.

It is a beautiful view, and not to be missed if you are going by Hoover Dam.


CoolJudy said...

Where are you guys? We are in Boulder City at the Elks Lodge until tomorrow. We toured the insides of the dam just yesterday and also saw the MSNBC trucks. Our tour guide said they were filming a special on energy. Boomers Jan & Chuck Moore toured today but didn't get our message until they had returned to Vegas.

Sharon Del Rosario said...

Great views from the new bridge! Too bad you can't see anything while driving it, but I guess it's good not to be distracted. Thanks for the tour.

Nancy said...

Beautiful pictures. Makes me wish I had gone out there when I was in Vegas in 2009.