An engineering marvel takes shape near Hoover Dam

February 8, 2010

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BOULDER CITY, Nev. - Less than a mile downstream from one of the nation’s best-known engineering marvels, the Hoover Dam, a second is taking shape.

A soaring 1,900-foot span across the gorge created by the Colorado River on the Arizona-Nevada border should be completed this fall.

It will eliminate much of a sometimes hourlong bottleneck as traffic creeps over the dam on the key route between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

When it is scheduled to open in November, motorists will cross the longest bridge of its kind in the western hemisphere, with towering concrete columns that rise above a twin rib arch beneath them.

“It’s pretty spectacular,’’ said Sidney Spears, a 68-year-old retired truck driver from South Dakota, sitting at the dam and admiring the bridge 1,500 feet away. “This day and age, they are only limited by their imagination.’’

Construction began on the $240 million project nearly five years ago and it has caught the eyes of many, like Spears, who have driven over the dam for decades.

Visitors to the dam will be able to see the bridge, but the sheer height of the bridge - 900 feet above the river - won’t allow motorists traveling across the span to see the dam.

A walkway on the north side of the bridge will give pedestrians a view of both.

Access to the dam also will change with the opening of the bridge.