Stillwater will observe the permanent closing to traffic Wednesday of the city's iconic Lift Bridge in much the same fashion that the bridge opened in 1931 — with a celebration and a lot of people.
Mayor Ted Kozlowski said the event will begin at 6 p.m. in Lowell Park. Elected officials and others will gather to mark a new transportation era for the St. Croix Valley, before the first traffic moves across the just-finished four-lane bridge in Oak Park Heights and the last cars cross the Lift Bridge.
The event will include a live video feed so that elected officials in Washington, D.C., can address the crowd.
"After decades of delays, this is an important day in the history of our town and we want to make sure people have a chance to enjoy it thoroughly," Kozlowski said. "There were 15,000 people in downtown Stillwater in July 1931 when the Lift Bridge first opened. We want to have a celebration that local people will tell their grandchildren, 'I was there.' "
The Minnesota Department of Transportation, citing concern over traffic jams, hasn't announced an exact opening time for the new bridge, which connects Hwy. 36 on the Minnesota side of the St. Croix River with a new four-lane highway on the Wisconsin side.
The bridge is expected to open Wednesday night or Thursday morning. A public ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the eastbound lanes in Oak Park Heights.
The celebration in downtown Stillwater will tie in with the previously scheduled Cruisin' on the Croix car show, which will include classic cars representing every generation since the Lift Bridge opened.
Extra food vendors are being added to accommodate what is expected to be a large crowd, Kozlowski said. He is asking the City Council to approve a temporary alcohol public consumption permit for Lowell Park.