On the fabulous new bridge at Hoover Dam

The in basket: I returned from a motor trip to Southern California and Las Vegas to find the new Mike O’Callaghan/Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge that looms over Hoover Dam near Las Vegas splashed on the cover of the Oct. 17 Parade magazine in the Kitsap Sun.

Coincidentally, my wife and I had just been there – twice. There had been a celebratory public walk-across the amazing span the previous weekend, akin to what they did when the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge was ready. But unlike the Narrows bridge, they didn’t open the Nevada bridge at the end of the community event. I learned that the hard way when I found the bridge unopened on Oct. 19.

Braving warning signs of delays of up to an hour, we drove on, never encountering the delays and eventually looking straight up at the underside of the massive bridge from the approach road to the dam.

We returned the next day, when TV news told us the bridge had opened for traffic.

The out basket: I can tell you that the drive across is hardly worth doing. High barriers on both sides of the bridge and between the directions of travel to keep rubber-neckers from crashing make the quarter-mile trip more like driving through a tunnel.

If you do it anyway, take the first exit on the Arizona side and come back. The highway on that side isn’t finished and I can’t tell you how far I would have had to drive to reach the next interchange. Fortunately, the highway becomes two-way after a few miles, so it’s possible, through difficult, to make a U-turn.

Much more rewarding is the visitor area that lets you out onto the dam-side walkway where you can see a great deal – the dam and Lake Mead beyond. There are also a lot of displays showing how the site and design of the bridge were chosen. Others honor former Nevada governor Callaghan and tragic figure Tillman, killed in action after abandoning his pro football career to join the military.

The crowded parking lot at the center is daunting, but the turnover is rapid and we were quickly able to find a space. Getting to the walkway requires quite a climb, but it is reached by a combination of stairs with gradual ramps as an alternative.

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