The bottleneck is a big problem on the heavily traveled highway connecting Phoenix and Las Vegas. According to Associated Press reports, highway officials say another route is necessary because of the increasing volume of traffic over the dam, especially heavy trucks.
The federal government is joining forces with the trucking industry and state officials to push for the production of a $200 million bridge south of Hoover Dam. They want a four-lane bridge that would span the river 250 feet higher than the dam.
The road across the dam has been designated as a primary transportation route under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Advocates for the new road argue that commerce shouldn't be blocked by sightseers.
Construction of the bypass bridge depends on the availability of funding and the successful navigation of the design and environmental review process, but is scheduled to begin in 2002 with completion in 2007.
Opponents of the bridge include environmentalist and American Indian groups whose main concern is the impact the construction would have on Sugarloaf Mountain and Black Canyon, the chasm that begins beneath the dam. The government's plan includes a 2,000-foot stretch of the road shearing off the top of the mountain before crossing the river. Many opponents consider the area to be a religious and cultural icon.
Some of the opponents favor putting the new highway across the river between Bullhead City, Ariz., and Laughlin, Nev., a plan that has been endorsed by both cities. But the Federal Highway Administration says the route would be too difficult to engineer.