A new bridge soaring across the Colorado River uniting Arizona and Nevada was formally dedicated Thursday, eliminating a 75-mile detour around Hoover Dam.
Named for heroes from different wars, the bridge will be the key part of a faster route between Phoenix and Las Vegas. It is the Western Hemisphere's longest single-span concrete arch bridge and one of the highest in the world, officials said.
The 1,900-foot bridge, which is 890 feet above the river, is part of a $240-million four-lane bypass that will shift traffic away from the two-lane U.S. 93 across Hoover Dam. It is about 1,500 feet south of the dam and crosses over Black Canyon.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, authorities banned commercial trucks from crossing Hoover Dam, forcing a 75-mile detour. The bypass is designed to provide a shorter commercial route and unclog the delays caused by security checkpoints at the dam.
"This majestic bridge is the longest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. "It rests on the tallest precast concrete columns ever constructed. And it reaffirms a powerful idea: Americans can still build great things not just in spite of enormous economic challenge, but as the means of overcoming it."
The bridge is named for former Nevada Gov. Mike O'Callaghan, who was decorated in the Korean War, and Pat Tillman, the former football player who left the Arizona Cardinals to become an Army Ranger after the Sept. 11 attacks. The Army initially said Tillman had been killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan, but under pressure acknowledged that he had been killed by friendly fire.
"This bridge above us — this monument to America's can-do spirit — reminds us that it's not too late for our generation to pass on a more perfect union to our kids and grandkids," LaHood said. "We can still dream big. We can roll up our sleeves and make this nation's infrastructure the envy of the world once again."