Bridge over St. Croix hobbled by delays; opening postponed again


Advocates for a new Stillwater-area bridge over the St. Croix River have been waiting for decades – what's another year?

A combination of factors that have slowed the project led transportation officials to push back the opening of the bridge to the fall of next year, which is a full year later than originally planned.

According to the Stillwater Gazette, the transportation departments of Minnesota and Wisconsin said in a joint announcement that those factors have included shortages of workers and materials, problems with equipment and the weather, and the complexity of the project.

The states had already said that a 2016 opening would not happen. While they've now pushed the opening into late 2017, MnDot project director Michael Beer offered no new target date for an opening – only reassurances that the revised timeframe is "well within the project team's capability to meet," the Gazette says.

The Pioneer Press notes the delay has implications for the contractor building the bridge. Lunda/Ames Joint Venture stood to gain millions of dollars in incentive payments if certain targets were met. Beer tells the newspaper discussions underway with the contractor are looking at the causes of the delays and whether the contract should be modified.

The St. Croix Crossing project

The St. Croix between Minnesota and Wisconsin is a National Scenic River. For years, environmental and recreational groups fought construction of the bridge in court, arguing it violated federal protections.

But the transportation departments of both states argued the span connecting Oak Park Heights, Minnesota, and Houlton, Wisconsin, is needed to safely move the growing number of travelers crossing the river. They ultimately won the fight, although the design of the bridge was modified to minimize its impact on the river valley's scenery.

Construction of the 3,200 foot bridge started in 2013. The cost of the project is budgeted at up to $646 million.

Find more background, including the bridge's design and a webcam showing the construction work at MnDot's St. Croix Crossing web page.

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