Nevada Ponies Up $50M More for Colorado River Bridge Job

Sat April 03, 2004 - West Edition

LAS VEGAS (AP) The Nevada Board of Transportation voted unanimously to commit $50 million in bond money toward construction of a new, four-lane bridge over the Colorado River.

The bridge is part of the 3.5-mi. (5.6 km) Hoover Dam bypass project, and the money is needed to ensure completion of the project by 2008, said State Transportation Director Jeff Fontaine. The bypass would carry truck and auto traffic on U.S. 93, a key route between Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Nevada and Arizona have allocated $20 million apiece for the $234 million bridge. Fontaine said he hopes to recover an additional $50 million Nevada commitment from federal discretionary highway funds.

The new bridge, 1,500 feet downstream from Hoover Dam, is designed and ready for construction. Fontaine said using the $50 million in existing available bonds won’t delay other projects in Nevada.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, almost all truck traffic has been diverted away from Hoover Dam. Fontaine said about 2,100 trucks a day have to take a lengthy detour that is costing the trucking industry more than $30 million a year.

The existing Hoover Dam road might be closed to all motor vehicles once the bypass bridge is completed.

Bob Walsh, spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, said security and maintenance concerns were behind a proposal to ban passenger cars from using the winding two-lane highway across Hoover Dam after the alternate route opens.

“There have been some internal discussions about whether that needs to be changed or not,” Walsh told the Las Vegas Sun. “Security needs have changed. There might be some potential cost savings because of reduced maintenance.”

The Bureau of Reclamation, which administers the dam, restricts commercial trucking over the dam to short trips serving businesses nearby. Long-haul trucks are detoured 60 mi. south on U.S. 95 to cross the Colorado River between Laughlin, NV, and Bullhead City, AZ.

Walsh said the dam would not be closed to visitors. He said that any decision about changing the policy for traffic over the dam will involve state and federal transportation authorities.

The Federal Highway Administration, which is overseeing construction of the bypass with a mix of federal and state funds, said once the bridge is built, traffic over the dam will be up to the Bureau of Reclamation.