Trucks on the dam

Spring 1998 brings a lot of activity and attention to the Hoover Dam Bypass Project. From conducting cultural resource interviews with local Native American Indian Tribes, to an honorary visit from the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the project continues to make progress and move forward. This issue of “Update” will bring you up to speed on the latest events.

Hoover Dam Visited by Top Officials

Ken Wykle, Administrator for the FHWA recently paid a visit to Hoover Dam. Administrator Wykle acknowledged the necessity of the bypass project while touring the site and learning about the proposed alternatives. The tour of the project area was hosted by the Nevada Department of Transportation Director, Tom Stephens. Admin- istrator Wykle was then led by U.S. Bureau of Reclamation staff on a tour of the Hoover Dam facility. As we are anxiously watching the ongoing legislation of the new highway bill in Washington D.C., this visit was a positive one for the project and heightens the awareness of the need for a bypass at Hoover Dam.

Deficiencies on U.S. 93 near the Hoover Dam not only create travel delays, but have also contributed to truck, vehicular and pedestrian accidents. These deficiencies have been identified from years of highway monitoring and data collection, defining the need for and the purpose of this project.

Searching For Solutions

Specifically, there are six categories of inefficient and inadequate conditions:
  • Highway Deficiencies ‚ There are severe hairpin turns and inadequate roadway widths.
  • Inadequate Roadway Capacity ‚ The roadway is congested and near gridlock during peak periods.
  • Pedestrian-Vehicular Conflicts on Hoover Dam ‚ The daily mix of 3,500 pedestrians, 10,000 cars, and 1,700 trucks contribute to the congestion on the dam.
  • Protection of Hoover Dam Powerplant, Lake Mead, and Colorado River ‚ Many vehicles carrying volatile fuels, chemical, or hazardous materials (including explosives, flammable fuels, and radioactive materials) cross the dam.
  • Quality of Visitors’ Experience at Hoover Dam ‚ Air quality, noise levels, and visitor safety affect the visitors’ experience at the dam.
  • Interference in Dam Operations ‚ The high volume of vehicles crossing the dam interferes with the vehicle movements needed for the normal operation and maintenance of dam facilities.
The purpose of this project is to reduce travel delays and alleviate safety concerns at Hoover Dam by:
  • Removing a major bottleneck to interstate and international commerce and travel in the West by reducing traffic congestion and accidents in this section of the major commercial route between Phoenix and Las Vegas.
  • Replacing an inadequate federally-owned highway river crossing with a new crossing that meets current roadway design criteria and improves through-vehicle and truck traffic capacity on U.S. 93 at the dam.
  • Reducing travel time and increasing travel speeds in the vicinity of the dam.
  • Protecting Hoover Dam employees, visitors, equipment, power generation capabilities, and the water of the Colorado River, while enhancing the visitors’ experience at Hoover Dam.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is the most comprehensive tool used by federal agencies to evaluate the environmental impacts of “federal actions,” or projects that are implemented by the federal government. If a project is likely to have significant environmental impacts, the federal agency responsible for the project must prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). An EIS evaluates various alternatives for project implementation, considers the impacts of each alternative and develops a plan to mitigate, or address, the significant impacts.

Figure 2

Project Criteria
  1. Engineering and operational standards, safety, and traffic/freight capacity, should be achieved with a minimum expenditure of funds.
  2. Impacts to Section 4(f) land (public recreational lands, such as Lake Mead National Recreation Area) should be avoided or minimized pursuant to Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966.
  3. Impacts to federally and/or state listed threatened or endangered vegetation and wildlife species should be avoided or minimized.
  4. Impacts to cultural resources, including Hoover Dam (a National Historic Landmark) and archaeological (prehistoric and historic) resources, should be avoided or minimized.
  5. Impacts to aesthetic resources (including visual, noise, dust, and odors) should be avoided or minimized.
  6. Impacts on recreation resources and tourists should be avoided or minimized to the extent possible.

The Hoover Dam Bypass Project requires preparation of an EIS before any further action can be taken. Figure 1 shows a step-by-step process of the NEPA activities. The highlighted area is where the Hoover Dam Bypass Project is in this process. A thorough evaluation of the feasible alternatives compares how successful the alternatives would be at addressing the purpose of and need for the project. Larry Smith, Division Engineer for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) lead agency notes, “We have taken very seriously the step of evaluating the effects of all possible alternatives. Several new alternatives were suggested during our public meetings in October 1997, and we have been busy screening all possible alternatives.” In order to screen alternatives, criteria are used to compare and evaluate each alternative.

By applying the criteria (Figure 2), and assessing the level of impact, the Project Management Team (PMT) will likely eliminate all alternatives from further consideration except for the no-build alternative and three alignments closest to Hoover Dam: Promontory Point, Sugarloaf Mountain, and Gold Strike Canyon. Currently, these are the four alternatives under evaluation in the EIS. The Draft EIS (DEIS) will present the analysis of each alternative considered and the reasons for either elimination or further consideration. Figure 3 shows all the alternatives that have been screened using the list of criteria.

Crowds on the dam

Environmental and engineering studies are underway to evaluate these alternatives. The field work in progress includes sensitive habitat surveys and cultural resource surveys for which we have contacted 17 Tribal organizations in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. Noise studies for the no-build and build alternatives have been completed. The FHWA is coordinating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to fulfill the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. We are also working with the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard to identify any required permits for the build alternatives. In response to public comment, additional studies are being conducted to re-evaluate the viability of routing trucks and through-traffic through Laughlin, Nevada.

Larry Smith notes, “The PMT anticipates the DEIS to be available to you in September 1998”, (see schedule). This will be your opportunity to formally comment and provide input to the process. It is then the job of the PMT to address and respond to your comments. All comments, whether received in writing or noted during the formal public comment period, will be recorded and become a part of the Final EIS. A public notification of the public review and the comment period for the DEIS will be distributed to local media and announced in our Fall newsletter.

For More Information
Call our project voice-mail at 702/369-6904 extension 234. Or contact :
tabJames D. Roller (HFL-16)
tab Project Manager
tab Federal Highway Administration
tab 555 Zang Street, Room 259
tab Lakewood, CO 80228.
tab Telephone number: 303/716-2009
tab FAX number: 303/969-5900

Map of every alt considered

Last Update: 06.14.2005 12:33 PM