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MnDot Rejects 'Sensible' St. Croix River Crossing Proposal

The Minnesota Department of Transportation released a report Wednesday afternoon stating that the cost estimates of the "sensible" Stillwater Bridge proposal were either “under-stated or not addressed.”

The "" to replace the 80-year-old Stillwater Lift Bridge was rejected by MnDot, falling to sharp criticism in a four-page report released Wednesday afternoon.

The report states that the diagonal bridge concept would have significant additional environmental impacts, a lengthy schedule delay, the costs estimates for the diagonal concept were either “under-stated or not addressed” and the proposal would still be subjected to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

The diagonal bridge concept proposed as the “Sensible Stillwater Bridge Partnership Alternative” is an idea that has a long history with the project, the report states. A similar concept, first proposed by a group of three architects in 1999, was given thoughtful review and rejected.

During the Stakeholder and Environmental Impact Statement process (2002-06), two alternatives were developed based on the three architects’ concept; they were both thoroughly studied and ultimately dismissed from further consideration.

“The current diagonal concept proposed by this group has been modified from earlier concepts, but the location of the diagonal crossing and many of the impacts to protected resources remain similar to the 1999 concept and the alternates studied in the Stakeholder/EIS process,” the report states.

The “Sensible Stillwater Bridge Partnership Alternative” has stated from the launch of their proposal that the slower, lower three-lane bridge designed to cross the St. Croix River diagonally (from an area near the Oasis Café to the current lift bridge) would cost a fraction of the hefty $690 million price tag for the “boondoggle” bridge.

But the MnDot report states that high-level estimates for the total cost of the diagonal proposal  “are likely to be in the same cost range as the currently planned project,” rather than the current estimates that the diagonal bridge would cost between $236-$283 million.

Other main points from the MnDot report state:

  • The diagonal concept impacts are greater on historic properties (Section 106 protected), park properties (Section 4(f) protected), bluff areas (Section 7(a) protected), floodplains, wetlands, commercial properties, and endangered mussel habitat.
  • … It does not appear that the cost of the diagonal concept would yield significant cost savings compared to the planned project. 
  • The planned project provides extensive storm water ponding in Minnesota and Wisconsin to address these concerns. The diagonal concept does not. 
  • The environmental process for the diagonal concept could take four to six years. Design and property acquisition will take an additional three years. Under this scenario, if the project survives the environmental process, the soonest construction of a new crossing could begin is 2019. 
  • Water quality was not addressed with the diagonal concept. 
  • A three-lane bridge with a reversible center lane may have greater traffic issues than a four-lane bridge.
  • Bluff and river impacts near each shoreline will occur with the diagonal crossing.
Thurston Howell III September 01, 2011 at 01:10 PM
I agree, over a decade of rancor over a bridge that is obviously needed is ridiculous.
Dirk A. September 01, 2011 at 05:21 PM
This new plan that this group presented looks like something my fourth grader would have drawn.
Flash Drive September 02, 2011 at 05:42 AM
@Mike, Jim and Bethany. Why do you flail away at " bureaucrats" when it is "citizen groups" that constantly try and delay this project.; Are you all anti-public sector people? The "Bureaucrats" are the ones who got the I-35 bridge built in record time. It has been the Sierra Club and other "interested parties" who keep throwing obstacles in the way of construction. These are the folks who don't want to "spoil the view" of the King Plant and Anderson Windows with a new bridge. Perhaps some critical thinking being done before blaming the wrong people for the delays.might be in order.
Jim Bob September 02, 2011 at 04:41 PM
The major reason a new bridge hasn't been built in Stillwater is the fact that Stillwater wants to keep the old bridge. The Wild & Scenic River Act does not allow for an additional bridge on the St. Croix. If the agreement would have been made to remove the old bridge once a new bridge was built, there would already be a new bridge in Stillwater. The "Sensible Bridge" was a compromise by the Sierra Club. They know the law makers are going to make an exemption to the W&SR Act that will allow for the big bridge to be built. I'm saddened that the Sierra Club would lower themselves to compromise under the pending legislative reality. But I would have loved to see the Sensible Bridge cluttering up the scenery of those in Stillwater worshiping the rusting, dilapidated icon known as the old bridge.
Concerned Citizen September 04, 2011 at 01:55 PM
There may be another bridge option... There is a technology company in Southern California that is currently working on state of the art holographic technology. The Come Mierda Group, Inc. located in San Ysidro, CA is currently developing new technology that can project large hologram images over greater distances under any lighting conditions. President Jose Vierga replied to a question recently, "I see no problem with using our technology to project the image of a large structure, like a river bridge, across a river approximately 1,000 feet wide." With this new technology available, why don't local officials look into this as a potential solution? The old rust bucket that has been characterized as unsafe by experts could be torn down and replaced with a holographic image enabling us to continue to enjoy its heritage and beauty. This solution would also eliminate the need for repairs necessary to allow for the old lift bridge to be used and a walking path or pier. A holographic image would also be boater friendly and eliminate the need to support and operate a lifting structure. This solution could be a win-win for everyone and should be immediately considered by the local authorities as another potential inexpensive option to the current bridge problem.

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