Stillwater Lift Bridge repairs getting public review

  • Article by: KEVIN GILES , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 3, 2012 - 6:01 PM

An open house on Feb. 22 will examine the $3.3 million project, which is scheduled to begin in September and last until December.

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The Stillwater Lift Bridge looking west from Wisconsin.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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The iconic Stillwater Lift Bridge will undergo a major repair project next fall, and an upcoming open house will tell people all about it.

The bridge will be closed to crossings during the project, scheduled to begin Sept. 10 and to end in December. More repairs are being considered for 2017.

The latest work on the 80-year-old bridge, nicknamed the Stabilization Project, will repair steel connections, electrical systems and concrete surfaces, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) said. Workers also will paint a portion of the bridge during the $3.3 million project.

Anyone attending the Feb. 22 open house in Stillwater will be able to learn about the steel and concrete repairs that are planned as well as the Lift Bridge management plan. Information about vehicular detours and how the repairs will affect boat navigation will be available from project leaders, MnDOT said.

According to MnDOT records, the Lift Bridge has closed dozens of times in the past five years for repairs and maintenance, for durations ranging from a few hours to several days.

The bridge was closed five times for major structural repairs, as many as 10 times for electrical repairs, more than 15 times for cable greasing and haul-rope adjustments, up to 10 times for minor structural repairs and 10 times for annual bridge inspections. Historically the bridge also has closed for a few days each spring when the St. Croix River reaches flood stage.

In 2005, the bridge closed for three months for a $5 million repair job. Traffic detoured to the Interstate 94 bridge, 5.6 miles to the south, and to the Hwy. 243 bridge to Osceola, Wis., 22 miles to the north.

A recent History Channel program portrayed the Lift Bridge as being on verge of a collapse, but MnDOT denied that in a "condition summary" last April:

"The fact that a bridge is 'structurally deficient' does not imply that it is unsafe," MnDOT said. "The classification of 'structurally deficient' is used to determine eligibility for federal bridge replacement or rehabilitation funding. The primary reason the lift bridge is termed 'structurally deficient' is because it is subject to flooding that can close the crossing."

The open house will be from 3:30 to 7 p.m. at Stillwater City Hall, 216 N. 4th St. For more information, go to www.startribune.com/a997.

Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037 Twitter: @stribgiles

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