St. Croix River Crossing bridge opens to traffic

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The wait is finally over, as the much anticipated and often times delayed St. Croix River Crossing has opened to traffic. The bridge spanning the St. Croix River between Oak Park Heights, Minnesota and Houlton, Wisconsin opened to traffic at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

A grand opening ceremony in the middle of the bridge kicked off at 10 a.m. Wednesday, with remarks from Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

The St. Croix Crossing will carry 30,000 to 40,000 vehicles a day with two lanes in both directions, designed to make travel more efficient for at least 100 years.

This project has been debated since the 1990s, but federal protections for the scenic St. Croix River stood in the way. But after a push by state lawmakers for an exemption, President Obama signed the bill in 2012.  

Crews started working on the bridge in 2014, but the $600 million project is finally complete. 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 Lift Bridge will be turned into a bike and pedestrian bridge.

The St. Croix Crossing 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.

VIDEO: Inside the construction of the St. Croix Crossing Bridge