The governors of Nevada and Arizona used the Hoover Dam as their backdrop Monday to announce the start of construction on a bridge bypass project to ease congestion and safety concerns at the dam.
The $231 million project, which awaits full funding, would create a 2,000-foot bridge over the Colorado River just south of the dam. It is expected to curb traffic delays along U.S. Highway 93 - a winding two-lane road linking Las Vegas and Phoenix.
Authorities stepped-up security around the Hoover Dam following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Vehicles are still stopped at checkpoints on either side of the dam.
Tractor-trailers, full-sized buses and large campers have been banned from the dam and diverted through Laughlin, NV and Bullhead City, AZ. The detour adds about 80 miles to their trip.
Preparations for bypass construction started last week. Crews could begin building the four-lane bridge as soon as next year, but the project likely will not be completed by 2007.
The steel and concrete arch will span the Colorado River about 1,500 feet downriver from the Hoover Dam. About two miles of highway will be added on either side of the dam to reach the bridge. Construction of the Arizona highway approach is scheduled to begin in three months.