STILLWATER, Minn. (KMSP) - The long-awaited St. Croix Crossing Bridge in Stillwater that connects Minnesota and Wisconsin is finally complete and set to open next month.
This bridge was no small feat. The mile-long span from the Land of 10,000 Lakes to the Dairy State literally took an act of Congress and a bill signed by the president. But, after more than 20 years of talking about it, it's done.
Plans for the structure were laid out in the early 2000s. Thirteen years later, the first support structures parted the waters and were sunk deep into the bedrock below the St. Croix River.
Now, in just a matter of days, it’ll be a new, more efficient link for those who live and work state-to-state.
Building the bridge has occupied MnDOT bridge construction engineer Paul Kiveisto's life for years.
“We know its complex. It's a very strikingly beautiful bridge. A lot of complexities so we knew it would be a challenge to build, but the construction team has done a tremendous job of getting it accomplished,”
The St. Croix crossing bridge is unique, not only for Minnesota and Wisconsin, but to the country. In the bridge world it's known as an "extra dost bridge", a mix between a "stay cable bridge" and a "concrete box bridge”, the technology of which comes from Japan.
At its highest point, the top of the pylons are 220 feet above the water and the road bed at its pinnacle is 150 feet above the river. Beneath each pier is a concrete footing 43 feet square, 10 feet thick. Each footing is supported by four caissons 9 feet in diameter. They extend 125 feet below the river's surface through 20 feet of water, 80 feet of silt and mud and then 25 feet into the bedrock.
As the state bridge engineer, part of Kevin Western's job was to make this imposing structure not seem so "imposing" in the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.
“There was a lot of talk about keeping the size of the structure [and] the height low enough so that it would not take over the whole river valley and as it went into the bluff on the Wisconsin side that it really didn't stick out,” Western said. “I think the design did a great job of that, trying to meld in, it almost disappears into the trees. So I think they did a great job."
The new bridge makes the historic Stillwater Lift Bridge obsolete. But after 80 years, the bridge had already reached the end of its lifespan. The old bridge was designed to carry a maximum of 8,000-10,000 vehicles, but it handles twice that every day and some days, it just plain doesn't work. The bridge was stuck in the "up" position twice in just the last month, creating a commuting nightmare.
The St. Croix crossing bridge will carry 30,000-40,000 vehicles a day with two lanes in both directions, designed to make travel more efficient for at least 100 years.
The St. Croix Crossing Bridge will be a tremendous improvement for commuters, but bikers and walkers will also benefit from it. A trail that runs on the north side of the bridge and eventually will connect with miles of pedestrian paths on both sides of the river, encompassing and giving new life to the iconic Stillwater Lift Bridge..
"I know a lot of people in the region are looking forward to this, not only the people that drive Highway 36 every day, but the people who live adjacent to this, this is new era if you will,” Kevin Gutknecht, the MnDOT communications director, said.