Reporting Reg Chapman
STILLWATER, Minn. (WCCO) — Drivers are having to find another way to cross the St. Croix River. Major repairs are being made to the Stillwater Lift Bridge and it will be closed for several months.
Drivers are encouraged to use the I-94 bridge at Hudson or the crossing at Osceola.
“This will be closed until right before Christmas,” said Stillwater Mayor Ken Harycki.
Orange barrels, barricades and netting have replaced cars, trucks and pedestrians on the Stillwater Bridge.
It’s closed so workers can rehab the historic bridge.
“The downtown usually benefits when it closes,” Harycki said.
Stillwater’s mayor says more townies venture downtown when the bridge is closed because there is less congestion. Many business owners along Main Street are smiling at the potential for an increase in foot traffic.
“There are a lot of people walking around and there are not many cars around so people who want to be downtown today will be,” said business owner Corey Buettner.
But the closing of the bridge will hurt other businesses hard. The big box stores up the hill from downtown fear they will lose business.
“They are expecting to lose 10 to 15 percent of sales and he was looking at laying off staff,” Harycki said.
Closing the lift bridge will also have a negative impact on how things work at Lakeview Hospital.
“We actually place an ambulance with staff across the river in western Wisconsin,” said hospital spokesperson Rick Robbins.
And that ambulance has to be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week — a financial loss the hospital has to deal with.
Patients, their families and staff are also faced with a dilemma.
“This morning it’s the Osceola bridge, it added about 35 minutes to my commute,” said EMS worker Nathan Hart.
Workers like Hart, who live on the Wisconsin side of the river, have two options — either drive to Osceola and cross or down to Hudson to get to work.
Lakeview Hospital will try and schedule EMS workers who live in Wisconsin to work their shift there instead of dealing with the commute.
The mayor expects the bridge will close for repairs at least one more time, before the new bridge is built.