August 02, 2017 09:05 PM
A $646 million bridge will officially open to the public at 8 p.m. Wednesday night and replace a lift bridge that has carried traffic across the St. Croix river from Minnesota to Wisconsin for nearly 90 years.
The Stillwater Lift Bridge, located two miles north, is scheduled to close Wednesday evening. The four-lane St. Croix Crossing bridge will carry 18,000 vehicles per day and ease congestion often caused by the two-lane lift bridge.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton says the bridge will also give an economic boost to communities in the St. Croix Valley in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
"Jobs, business growth, safety and quality of life to many thousands of our citizens on both sides of the river," Dayton said before jointly cutting the ribbon on the bridge with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
Two sisters who attended the opening of the Stillwater Lift Bridge in 1931 were also on hand to see the new bridge open.
"I've been hearing about this new bridge for so long I didn't really think I would live long enough to see it and I did," 99-year old Doris Erler of Wisconsin. She attended the bridge opening with her 101-year old sister Helen Josephson of Stillwater.
A car show called Cruisin' to Closure will commemorate the Stillwater Lift Bridge's closing.
Stillwater business owner and classic-car collector Mark Desch will be the last person to cross the bridge before it closes. He'll drive across in his blue Stutz DV-32 Convertible Sedan, which was made in 1931, the same year the lift bridge opened.
"Everybody is really excited," Kozlowski said. "We've got nine classic cars representing the nine decades that the lift bridge has been in operation, and we want them to be the last cars to cross the bridge."
Stillwater residents and businesses said the lift bridge, which saw about 18,000 vehicles a day, caused traffic and noise issues in the downtown area. They said they hope its closure will encourage more people to go downtown.
"The main thing that we hear as a big complaint is the noise," said Jack Baglio, a manager at Water Street Inn. "So, cutting that noise is going to boost business drastically."
Lift operators will continue to raise the Stillwater bridge in order to allow boats to pass. It's scheduled to reopen in 2019 as a bicycle and pedestrian path.
The new bridge connects Oak Park Heights, Minnesota, and St. Joseph, Wisconsin.
Here is a timeline of events in the project's construction process:
December 2014: Minnesota and Wisconsin departments of transportation approve a $332.5 million contract with the Lunda/Ames Joint Venture to build the St. Croix Crossing superstructure.
March 2014: Bridge work underwater completed, crews begin work on overpass to connect to St. Croix Crossing Bridge.
May 2014: Paddleboat tours of the project linking Minnesota and Wisconsin launch, crews begin work on 10th pier of the bridge. Five of the piers are now built to full height.
September 2014: All piers are constructed, crossbeam construction at three of five pier locations continues. New estimates put project cost between $580 million and $646 million.
April 2015: Construction on the St. Croix Crossing begins again, with crews installing pier 8 through 10 supports.
May 2015: Crews begin installing flat concrete segments between piers; 650 of the segments will make up the bridge's driving surface.
July 2015: Crews finish first pier tower, at pier 8.
September 2015: Minnesota and Wisconsin departments of transportation announce project delay, stating bridge will open in early to mid 2017 instead of fall of 2016. MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle said methods of construction were taking longer than expected.
December 2015: Crews continue work at piers 10 and 11.
April 2016: Deck segments placed at various points in the construction project: of 29 segments, the 18th in the bridge deck construction sequence is placed at Pier 8, the 17th segment at Pier 9, the first eastbound and westbound segments at both Piers 10 and 11, and the third and fourth segments in the bridge deck construction sequence at Pier 12. New cranes are introduced to speed up the process.
June 2016: MnDOT amends lease for Stillwater office space through June 2018 as a "buffer" against any more delays in the bridge's targeted fall 2017 completion.
August 2016: Work stalls as the result of a lack of equipment needed to tighten the bridge's support cables. Work resumes at the end of the month after a solution is found.
October 2016: A piece of history is made when MnDOT connects the new St. Croix Crossing bridge over the middle of the St. Croix River.
February 2017: Crews complete the final closure pour on the St. Croix Crossing bridge.
August 2017: Bridge opens to the public.
Updated: August 02, 2017 09:05 PM
Created: August 02, 2017 04:55 PM
(Copyright 2017 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)