Boat tours of St. Croix River Crossing bridge construction remain popular in 2nd year


Riverboat tours to see the construction of the massive St. Croix River Crossing bridge are in its second year – and they're still just as popular.

The Associated Press recently highlighted the popularity of the tours that give people an up-close look at where all the taxpayer money is going, noting the mile-long bridge that will span the river has become an "unexpected tourist market."

Two times a month, hundreds of curious passengers hop on one of the St. Croix Boat and Packet Co. boats to learn about the construction process from one of the project's engineers, the tour website says. The 90-minute tour is $10 for adults, $6 for children, the Minnesota Department of Transportation's website says.

MnDOT decided to set up the boat tours last summer because there was no place on shore for the public to see the construction safely. Because the tours were so popular, St. Croix Boat and Packet Co. and transportation officials decided to continue them, adding more trips and using the biggest boat in the fleet to hold more people, the AP notes.

There are four days of tours left this season: Aug. 15, Aug. 19, Sept. 19 and Sept. 23, MnDOT notes.

Construction on the bridge is really coming along. Crews marked a construction milestone last week when they completed the first set of pier towers, a news release says.

When complete, the controversial bridge will connect Oak Park Heights, Minnesota, and St. Joseph, Wisconsin, serving as an alternative to the Stillwater lift bridge for the growing number of motorists who cross the river daily.

The hope is the $646 million bridge project will provide a safer, more reliable way to cross the river, as well as improve traffic safety and ease congestion in the St. Croix River Valley, MnDOT notes.

The bridge is among the few extradosed bridge to be built in the United States, and is expected to be a destination for bridge enthusiasts and transportation officials when it opens in the fall of 2016, the Pioneer Press reported.

These bridges, which are described as a hybrid of a concrete box girder bridge and a cable-stayed bridge, are said to minimize environmental impacts by keeping the height of the towers below the river bluffs, as well as limit the number of piers in the river, the paper said.

For updates and more photos of the construction project, visit the project's Facebook page or website.

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MnDOT: Construction on new St. Croix River bridge to begin next spring

MnDOT officials tell MPR that foundation work on the new bridge crossing the St. Croix River downstream from Stillwater will begin next spring, rather than in 2014. The proposed four-lane bridge connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin will replace the 80-year-old Stillwater Lift Bridge. The entire project is estimated to cost up to $676 million and take about three years to complete.