Named for heroes from different wars, the bridge designed to speed traffic by bypassing the area around the Hoover Dam was formally dedicated Thursday morning.
Top officials including Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood dedicated the bridge, which soars across the Colorado River uniting Arizona and Nevada and will be the key part of a new, faster route between Phoenix and Las Vegas. It is the Western Hemisphere's longest single-span concrete arch bridge and one of the tallest in the world, officials said.
The 1,900-foot bridge, which is 890 feet tall, is part of a $240-million four-lane bypass that will shift traffic away from the two-lane U.S. 93 across the Hoover Dam. It is about 1,500 feet south of the Hoover Dam and crosses over Black Canyon.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, authorities banned commercial trucks from crossing the Hoover Dam, forcing a 75-mile detour. The new bypass is designed to provide a shorter commercial route and unclog the delays caused by security checkpoints at the dam.
"This majestic bridge is the longest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere," LaHood said. "It reaffirms a powerful idea: Americans can still build great things."
Planning for the bypass, about 40 miles east of Las Vegas, began in the late 1980s, though construction didn't begin until 2002. It is scheduled to open to traffic next week, according to the Department of Transportation, which praised the more than 1,200 people who worked on it.
The bridge is named for former Nevada Gov. Mike O'Callaghan, who was decorated in the Korean War, and Pat Tillman, the former football player who left the Arizona Cardinals to become an Army Ranger after Sept. 11. Originally, the Army said Tillman had been killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan, but under pressure finally ended its coverup and acknowledged that Tillman had been killed by friendly fire.