A popular shortcut from Las Vegas to the west rim of the Grand Canyon is now a quicker, smoother trip.
With the paving of a nine-mile stretch of Diamond Bar Road in northwest Arizona, the round-trip drive to Grand Canyon West, with its popular Skywalk attraction, is now up to two hours shorter than it was.
Bird dancers from the Hualapai Tribe and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer were to help dedicate the $35-million project Tuesday morning.
The paved road replaces a washboard of gravel that not only rattled travelers' teeth but also caused considerable damage — including countless flat tires — to the cars and buses that dared maneuver the route.
"I've seen a lot of tour buses that looked pretty beat up after going on that road," Gary Jeppsen, development services director for the city of Kingman, Ariz., told the Kingman Daily Miner.
The paving was initially proposed 12 years ago but the project was delayed repeatedly because of wrangling between the tribe and neighboring dude rancher Nigel Turner, who runs the Grand Canyon Ranch Resort.
The dispute escalated last year when Turner started charging tolls of $20 a person and $500 a tour bus to traverse the one-mile stretch of Diamond Bar Road that straddled his land, according to the Arizona Republic. Various state and federal agencies helped in the negotiations.
According to the tribe, Grand Canyon West is about a 2 1/2-hour drive from the Las Vegas Strip.
It's more than four hours to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. However, the canyon's colors aren't as spectacular on the Hualapai reservation, which lies outside the park.
The tribal attraction is also considerably costlier. A Gold Legacy Pass — which includes admission to the reservation, a meal and a self-guided tour of the Skywalk, a glass bridge 4,000 feet above the Colorado River — costs $80.94 a person, regardless of age. The national park charges $25 per vehicle.