Bridging America

The engineering marvel spanning the Colorado River opens in stages

While motorized vehicles will not be allowed on the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge until mid-October, it has already started carrying traffic.

Cyclists were the first members of the public to cross the 1,900-foot-long bridge on Oct. 9 as part of the 115-mile Viva Bike Vegas event. Following an Oct. 14 dedication ceremony for the bridge, the public has been invited to walk across it on Oct. 16, although the event is closed to those who have not already RSVP’d. More than 10,000 people are expected to attend the “Bridging America” event.

The bridge, which contains 6,000 cubic feet of concrete and cost $114 million to construct, is the focal point of the $240 million Hoover Dam Bypass Project, which will improve traffic flow between Las Vegas and Phoenix on U.S. Highway 93 and cut an average of 17 minutes off the drive.

The bridge is the second highest in the United States, according to, at about 900 feet above the Colorado River, and is the longest concrete arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere, with the twin-rib arch helping to support the structure spanning 1,060 feet. Work on it began in January 2005 and was interrupted for two years in September 2006 when a highline crane system used to deliver materials collapsed during a windstorm. A brief delay occurred in November 2008 when worker Sherman Jones died in a construction accident.

Once the bridge is open, motorists will not be able to see Hoover Dam while driving across, but there will be a walkway on the bridge that will provide spectacular views of the dam. The existing roadway across Hoover Dam will be closed to through traffic, with the only vehicular access to the dam coming from the Nevada side.

The bridge is named after Mike O’Callaghan, a two-term governor of Nevada in the 1970s, and Pat Tillman, an Arizona Cardinals defensive back who joined the Army following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004.

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