Hoover Dam bypass bridge is a 'marvel of engineering'

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With just months until it is set to open, the Hoover Dam bypass project is more than a roadway.

Project Manager Dave Zanetell says it is also a marvel of engineering. "It's …we believe, the longest conrete arch in the western hemisphere; the roadway finished grade will be 900 feet above the river, which puts it as one of the tallest structures in North America." 

There is no shortage of amazing facts and figures about the new bridge spanning the mighty Colorado at Hoover Dam, but even they don't stand up to the soaring structure that can take your breath away.

It's not uncommon to hear those he see it utter, "I'm in awe…I'm like wow. It's amazing to look at."  For more than 50 years there has been talk of a bridge to bypass the twists and turns and slow crawl across the concrete marvel holding back Lake Mead.

For now, the road to that dream still ends 900 feet above the river, but  the steel girders that will fill the last two spans are already on site, ready to be lifted into place on cables soaring above the chasm.

Zanetell says that is the only way they can be put in place. "Everything about this job has to be built from above." Cables carry workers, equipment, and even held the forms used to pour the arch section by section.

Zanetell explains, "So you have a hollow form you then put the rebar in put a center form in and cast that section and then slide that forward and effectively repeat the process."  Come November cars, not construction crews, will fill the bridge, which bypasses, but does not ignore the national monument called Hoover Dam  just up-stream.

Zanetell says they are meant work together, "The connectivity of this bridge and the dam, you can't separate the two and so concrete is inherently a common thread between the two civil works."  He says tourists can view the bridge from the dam or the dam from the bridge. "We designed the facility to have a pedestrian sidewalk and enjoy Hoover in a new way."  

This is all part of a project the crews hope will stand not only as a bridge, but as a monument to their work, their care, and their dedication because Zanetell says, "Everybody here has had somebody tell them, this can't be done, that's going to be too tough and everybody is here because we wanted to tie into that challenge. "

The entire bypass project includng 8 new bridges leading up to the main crossing, and new access roads is expected to be completed by November, but Zanetell hopes they can beat that date. The project cost $240 million.

You can find out more and see some amazing pictures at hooverdambypass.org.