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Stillwater Lift Bridge closes

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Stillwater Lift Bridge
Crews began to erect a barricade after closing the Stillwater Lift Bridge to traffic Tuesday, March 23, 2010 due to high water and ice on the St. Croix River. The St. Croix River is expected to crest at 687 feet by early this weekend.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Commuters from western Wisconsin will have to find another route while the Stillwater Lift Bridge is closed because of high water and ice.  

The bridge, which crosses the St. Croix River into Stillwater, closed Tuesday to traffic. Its deck will be raised until the water level goes down.

  J.P. Gillach, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said MnDOT waited to close the bridge.

"We wanted to get through this morning's rush hour commute," he said. 

Gillach said raising the bridge will ensure that electrical components under the deck don't get wet. 

Motorists are able to detour south to Interstate 94 at Hudson, Wis., or north to Highway 243 at Osceola, Wis., to cross the St. Croix River. 

The river is expected to crest Friday at 87 feet, which is flood stage. Officials haven't decided when the bridge will reopen, saying they'll wait and monitor water levels.

Also Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources implemented a slow no-wake boating restriction for the St. Croix between Taylors Falls and Prescott, Wis.

Officials said slowing down boaters would help prevent further shoreline erosion and property damage. The rule will be in effect until the water level goes down.

Stillwater Mayor Ken Harycki looked at the bridge Tuesday and said the water was only a couple feet below the deck.

"It's approaching the support structures," he told MPR's Morning Edition.

This year's floodwaters aren't expected to be as high as in 2001, when water flowed over the bridge. That year, MnDOT had to take some extra steps to make sure the bridge stayed intact, Harycki said.

"MnDOT parked trucks on it to weigh it down so it didn't wash away," he said.

Harycki and others have been pushing to replace the Stillwater lift bridge with a new bridge south of town, but a federal judge stopped that process earlier this month. 

Harycki isn't complaining about the lift bridge's closure, and he said he thinks most businesses might even do better while it's closed.

"It makes for a more pleasant experience when you don't have all the traffic going through downtown Stillwater," he said.