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St. Croix River bridge build blocked again

The Stillwater Lift Bridge in Stillwater, Minn. (AP Photo/St. Paul Pioneer Press, Chris Polydoroff)

A federal judge in Minnesota has blocked the construction of a new bridge to replace the Stillwater Lift Bridge (above). (AP Photo/St. Paul Pioneer Press, Chris Polydoroff)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge in Minneapolis has blocked construction of a bridge over the St. Croix River near Stillwater.

Chief Judge Michael Davis found the National Park Service’s approval of the $668 million bridge violated federal law. Davis said the agency ignored its 1996 position that a massive bridge south of Stillwater would have a “dramatic and disruptive” impact on the river’s scenery.

It’s the second time the Sierra Club has sued to stop construction of the bridge that would replace the aging Stillwater Lift Bridge as the main Minnesota-Wisconsin connection north of Interstate 94.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports state transportation officials hoped to start building the bridge mid-2013.

Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com


  1. I thought Stillwater was south of the I-94 Interstate? Do you know how many miles it is (north or south) of 1-94?

  2. Hi Cheryl, the Stillwater Bridge is actually about 8 miles north of I-94. I-94 crosses into Minnesota from Hudson, Wis., while the Stillwater Bridge crosses into Minnesota from Houlton, Wis. Thanks. Paul Snyder, The Daily Reporter

  3. I’d be interested to see more on this. Minnesota Public Radio interviewed someone with the Sierra Club on this issue. As far as I could tell, the Sierra Club’s stand is quite simple : they technically don’t oppose a bridge but oppose anything that’s “too big”. The problem is that there is already an enormous amount of local traffic and a smaller bridge can’t be built. Otherwise we’d be building a bridge that from day one was outdated. Or is there something I’m missing? Unfortunately no news outlets appear to be covering this issue beyond what the Sierra Club has to say.

  4. Yes the existing bridge is in need of repairs, something that seems to get worse when the drive for the new bridge is on, better when it’s on hold. Historically the only time this crossing gets rebuilt is when the old one is destroyed or collapses.
    While yes the congestion in the summer is bad. and when Anderson Windows has a shift change, there are solutions to this problem that the new bridge advocates don’t seem to want to put forward: 1) if it takes 15 min. to do a lift and you do it every 1/2 hour all day long. the only reason for the lift is an eight foot channel that ends 1000 ft north of the bridge, after that it goes down to a 3′ all the way to Taylor Falls, 9 out of 10 lifts are for a commercial paddle boat company. The logs of the Bridge Tender show this. Put and end to this and you have a doubling of capacity. 2) Anderson Windows shift changes are well known times to avoid downtown Stillwater, even the neighborhood streets, are over run with people trying to get around 95 from the south, better shift rotations. I have yet to hear a local advocate for the bridge say any thing other than we need it, or it’s time. The numbers of future need, that are thrown are around 30,000 crossings a day are based on the projected new development after the the bridge is built. huh?

  5. Stillwater is about 10 km north of the Interstate.

  6. @Joe, thanks!


    Axing the lifting of the bridge is not an option. There are many reasons for this. Not to be rude but to suggest that it’s an option shows a lack of understanding of all the issues in play.

    The Anderson Windows shift change does lead to some increase in traffic but a few hundred vehicles in a short period of time is not the core problem. More so, forcing that traffic to detour south to 94 only shifts the problem over to Bayport, West Lakeland, Hudson and North Hudson. It doesn’t resolve the issue, it just changes the location of the problem.

    As for traffic, a decade ago when Wisconsin upgraded WI6f to 4 lanes, they said they were doing so because traffic levels already warranted it. The Minnesota side has been a 4 lane divided highway up to the location of the new bridge for decades. Keep in mind St. Croix county is the fastest growing county in the state. Washington county on the Minnesota side also has a growing population. The no build option estimates that use will increase from the current 16,500 vehicles to 21,500 vehicles by 2030. The projected 30,000 trips a day will happen with the new bridge, but what that means is that more people will be willing to make the crossing at Stillwater rather than wasting time and gas routing down to 94 and back (an extra 15 to 20 miles of travelling in many cases). It doesn’t mean those trips are not occurring.

    The current bridge was built in 1931. It’s a hair short of 80 and it’s at the end of it’s life. The bridge needs to be replaced, even the Sierra Club agrees on that. The dispute on hand is the final design of the new bridge, not the need for a new one.

    Personally, it seems especially odd to argue that the new one doesn’t need to be very big. Historically that hasn’t been the case. When the old US 12 span was replaced with a new one in Hudson, it had capacity issues very early ion it’s life. It seems curious to advocate for a smaller bridge. The marginal differences between the proposed span and a 2 lane span are minimal. Building the bridge to not handle semi trailer traffic, no more than a couple percent of the traffic on this bridge, isn’t a design option nor would it have a noticeable affect on the bridge design.

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