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Mohave County
May 2024
Volume 24 Issue 3
COMPLIMENTARY

May 2023 | General | 0 comments

​HOBBYIST CAPTURES BRIDGE PROGRESS

General | 0 comments

May 2023

As the new bridge connecting Nevada and Arizona makes strides across the Colorado River, one of the best visual aids in monitoring the progress has been a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) owned and operated by Laughlin resident and community leader, Robert Bilbray. What started as a means to assist local Industrial Arts students to learn about the process of bridge construction, this lesson has reached new heights. From feet on the ground to soaring at 300 feet above the site, students have witnessed the preparation of the site, trenching and forming of coffer dams which provide a dry area in which to dig, place and pour structural columns. The videos have also captured the assembly of the infrastructure for the bridge deck. 

Bilbray has spent countless hours capturing footage of the project. One of the biggest challenges is the infamous Mohave Valley wind that keeps the proud Stars and Stripes at attention as it waves from a flagpole atop the 275-foot crane. This crane will soon be setting in place the remaining horizonal support roadway beams over the next few months. The bridge access roadways, extending from the Bullhead Parkway westerly for 3.5 miles into Nevada and the new intersection with Needles Highway. 

What started as a hobby in 2014 with a Huge DJI Inspire 1 UAV that spanned the top of his desk, self-taught UAV pilot Bilbray has perfected his skills with over 8000 flights and over 32,000 nautical miles traveled under his wings. “My first drone cost about $13,000 back then, but today, for $3,000 I have a unit that is the size of a cell phone and performs twenty times better in terms of capturing detailed videos and images. Today’s drones can shoot images in a seven-mile radius and report the precise number of specific wildlife existing on a mountain top. Drones provide thermal imaging which can be invaluable in search and rescue. UAVs can also act as eyes by showing a pathway for emergency vehicles and rescue crews that are providing evacuation of lost or injured individuals. The ability to communicate with remotely stranded victims through the drone’s communications capabilities can be calming and helpful in gathering information.”

Bilbray hopes to share his expertise with local children aged 12 to 16 years in a multi-day drone camp held by the Bullhead City, Parks and Recreation Department over the summer holidays. “With over 3500 drones in the tri-state area, it’s imperative that people learn the safety and wilderness protection issues related to UAV traffic. Drones are not toys and people have to be respectful in their use.”

According to Clark County records, the order to proceed with the Colorado River bridge project was issued November 8, 2021 with a view to completion at the end of 2023. Straddling the Colorado River approximately 35 feet above the water, the precast concrete girders will rest on drilled shaft foundations. Four lanes of vehicular traffic will travel the bridge along with cyclists and pedestrians who will share a 10-foot-wide multi-use path. The two-lane approach from the Needles Highway to the Colorado River Bridge will be 3 ½ miles. A 0.2-mile approach will run parallel to the Anderson Field House on the Arizona side of the River. Bryan Osborne, Principle Civil Engineer and Project Manager for the Design Engineering Division of Clark County, projects completion of the bridge for January 5, 2024.

The budget for the bridge is $52.4 million. Clark County has provided $27.1 million, the federal government $20.8 million and Bullhead City $4.5 million. Contractor for the project is Fisher Sand and Gravel of Tempe, AZ.

This new structure will enhance economic exchange between the two river communities with easier access to shopping, services and entertainment on both side of the River. Most importantly it will provide quicker, safer access for emergency vehicles. As well, the new structure will relieve traffic on the currently overused Laughlin Bridge, eight miles north. It was constructed in 1987 and financed by Don Laughlin who later donated the structure to the states of Nevada and Arizona.

As completion of the new bridge nears, Bilbray continues to capture the progress of the long-awaited structure with a wing and a prayer for manageable winds. His latest 18-minute video can be seen on YouTube at River1.

        – Sheryn Smith

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