The end of the season for larger boats using Stillwater’s lift bridge may be delayed due to high water levels along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, Minnesota Department of Transportation officials said Tuesday.
In July, one span of the lift bridge was removed to allow boats on the St. Croix River to pass unimpeded while the lift on the bridge remained closed for repairs and repainting. Crews had intended to replace that span on Nov. 1, though that date now will depend on when the river drops.
Water levels will need to fall 4½ feet before crews are able to float the span — which is sitting on a barge — back to its original location.
“We could be looking at getting close to Thanksgiving before we could get that span into place, and at that point, the [lift bridge] season would end,” said Kent Barnard, a MnDOT spokesman.
During a regular year, the lift schedule ends on Oct. 15. After that, lifts are arranged only with 24-hour notice.
“It looks like people out there are going to get a little respite from the lift schedule’s ending,” Barnard said. “They’ll get to keep going up and down the river for a while longer.”
Once the span is put back in place, only smaller watercraft will be allowed to pass beneath the bridge, officials said. Signs will direct those boats around hanging scaffolding.
Work on the historic lift bridge is scheduled to wrap up by June 2019, when it is set to reopen as a bicycle and pedestrian crossing, becoming part of a 4.7-mile trail loop between Minnesota and Wisconsin.
In addition to repainting the bridge its original 1931 color — federal green — and adding replica lampposts, restoration includes repairs of steel connections and mechanical electrical components.
The repairs to the lift span are expected to be completed over the winter, allowing the lift bridge schedule to resume in late April 2019.