The Colorado River Bridge arch was closed in August 2009; the deck is scheduled to be complete in May.
The Colorado River Bridge arch was closed in August 2009; the deck is scheduled to be complete in May.

After about five years, millions of dollars, and gallons of sweat, the bridge just downstream from Hoover Dam, about 20 miles south of Las Vegas, is nearing completion.

People attending the annual Hoover Dam Editorial Tour on Jan. 31 and Feb. 5 were treated to a fascinating account of the project by Jeff St. John, deputy project manager with contractor Obayashi/PSM JV. The imposing project brings oohs and ahhs from everyone as they traverse the winding road toward the world-famous dam. The bridge is 1060 feet long, 900 feet high from the bridge deck to the river below, and the tallest column is 300 feet tall.

A precast yard 11 miles away manufactured 440 segments, and 53 segments were cast for each arch. The arch was closed in August 2009, the deck is scheduled for completion in May, with the remainder to be completed by the end of summer. The bridge should be open to traffic by November. Through traffic will use the bypass to travel between Arizona and Las Vegas and beyond. Only vehicles traveling to the Visitor Center will use the present road. No more traffic will be allowed to travel across the top of the dam.

The last contract for $7 million was awarded late last year to complete signing, striping, median barriers, lighting, paving, and roadway tie-ins at U.S. 93. Additional work will include the paving and parking area improvements for the visitor and pedestrian plaza. Of the total $240 million project budget, $114 million is for the bridge's construction.

The span's construction posed many challenges, including digging 300 feet into the earth and pouring concrete for the arch foundations, and placing much of the concrete at night because of hot temperatures. In 2006 a cableway fell during high winds, adding several months to the project's completion.

Also, the span has been officially named the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. O'Callaghan was a Nevada governor and businessman who died in 2004. Pat Tillman is a graduate of Arizona State University, played on the Arizona Cardinals football team, and was killed in the War in Afghanistan in 2004.