Reporting Kate Raddatz
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It finally happened. Ground is broken on the new bridge that will once again connect Minnesota and Wisconsin over the St. Croix River.
The ground breaking for the St. Croix River Crossing happened around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. It’s the bridge that will replace the Stillwater Lift Bridge. The Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Transportation symbolically broke ground to mark the beginning of this $629 million project. But work on the bridge already began last year.
Crews have built a construction staging area on the Minnesota banks of the St. Croix River. The new four-lane highway bridge will be about a mile south of Stillwater and connect Highway 36 in Oak Park Heights to Highway 64 in St. Joseph, Wis.
The Stillwater Lift Bridge is getting old as it was built in 1931 and traffic gets congested in Stillwater. The lift bridge is expected to become a hiking and biking trail when the new bridge is ready in 2016.
“I think the new bridge is wonderful for the town of Stillwater. It’s going to eliminate our traffic, it’s going to make the businesses more profitable,” said Dick Johnson of Stillwater.
Congresswoman Michelle Bachman was a longtime supporter of the idea. She said before Tuesday’s ceremony, “For those on that Minnesota side of the river and for those on the Wisconsin side of the river, this says something about the perseverance of hearty Midwesterners.”
A graphic gives you some idea of how big the new bridge will be. The bridge that’s over the St. Croix River on Interstate 94 connects Lakeland to Hudson, Wis. Officials said that bridge sees about 91,000 vehicles per day, and they said this new St. Croix River Crossing bridge will get about 18,000 vehicles on a daily basis.
“A lot of organizations and entities spent a great deal of time and money to get to the point we’re at,” said Mary McFarland-Brooks, the communications director with the St. Croix River Crossing project. “So we stand on the shoulders of giants to get to this point. For more than I would say 30 years, people have been looking at a way to replace this bridge.”
Construction is expected to finish in 2016.