But beginning in 2003, local supporters of the bridge — which would be the second span connecting the two towns — found a receptive audience when they approached some members of the Nevada and Arizona congressional delegations. Civic leaders argued that an additional bridge was needed because traffic on the existing connector bridge, on the northern edge of Bullhead City, had become overwhelming.
Reid's land, three to five miles from several proposed sites for the second bridge and near the local hospital, is undeveloped. New housing is springing up around it.
Acting on a request from the town of Laughlin, Reid, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee's transportation subcommittee, in 2003 secured $500,000 for preliminary studies.
Last year, Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.), supported by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), got $2 million for the bridge inserted into the House version of the transportation bill.
By the time Congress approved the $286-billion transportation bill, $18 million more in bridge funding had been added. Reid took credit in a news release for securing money that would kick the project into high gear. The bridge, still in the planning stages, is projected to cost $30 million to $40 million.
Arizona's two Republican senators voted against the entire transportation bill as pure pork.
Nowhere in Reid's statements about the project was any mention of his Bullhead City land holdings; he does list it on his Senate financial disclosure forms. He valued the Arizona land at $500,000 to $1 million in his most recent disclosure, which reported total assets of at least $2.2 million.
Reid's interest in the Arizona land dates back more than 20 years and, according to his staff, has been a long-running headache. He paid about $150,000 for 100 acres of the Bullhead City parcel, and his longtime friend Clair Haycock bought the remaining 60 acres for $90,000.
Californians who bought the property from the two in the early 1990s defaulted on a $1.3-million note and returned the land to Reid and Haycock.
In early 2002, Haycock sold out to Reid for $10,000, or about $166 an acre.
At the time, the Mohave County assessor valued the entire parcel at $339,620, or more than $2,000 an acre.
The low price resulted from Haycock's need to sell and Reid's lack of interest in buying, the two men said.
The investment "had been a losing proposition for about a decade running," Reid's staff said.
Haycock, who owns Haycock Petroleum Co. of Las Vegas, said in an e-mail that he needed to sell his share to liquidate a company pension plan, which owned the property.
He said in a statement that he "expected nothing from Sen. Reid" in return for selling him the property.
"Sen. Reid has never taken any official action to provide personal financial benefit to me, and I would never have asked," Haycock said.
City and county officials say that land values have been rising in Bullhead City as developers and speculators discover the area.
"Once they build a bridge, values will go up," said Frank Capotosto of the Mohave County assessor's office.