BOULDER CITY, Nev. —A soaring bridge that will let drivers bypass Hoover Dam — and steer clear of its security checkpoints and gawking tourists — is set to open after nearly eight years and $240 million worth of work.
The 1,900-foot engineering wonder perched 890 feet above the Colorado River is expected to drastically cut travel time along the main route between Las Vegas and Phoenix, as motorists will no longer have to make their way across the dam's two-lane road at a snail's pace.
"I know that the Hoover Dam is one of the wonders of the world," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said at a dedication ceremony Thursday. "I don't know who gives that designation, but I hope the bridge will become another wonder of the world."
LaHood and a delegation of government officials, including Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, heralded the span linking the states as a crucial example of work being done nationwide to update the country's infrastructure.
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LaHood said the bypass is one of 15,000 transportation projects that include updating 4,000 miles of road.
"Daring projects do not solve today's problems — they support tomorrow's possibilities," he said.
The bridge, which officially opens next week, is named for former Nevada Gov. Mike O'Callaghan, who was decorated in the Korean War, and Pat Tillman, the former NFL player who quit the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army Rangers and died under friendly fire in Afghanistan. Family members of O'Callaghan and Tillman watched the dedication ceremony from the span along with hundreds of construction workers and their families.
People snapped photos and walked along the bridge Thursday before the ceremony, many taking long pauses to stare at the 75-year-old dam below — itself regarded as an engineering marvel.