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Stillwater residents propose alternate bridge plan

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Sensible Stillwater Bridge
A computer rendering shows how a proposed bridge would look over the St. Croix River. The proposal is an alternative suggested by the Sensible Stillwater Bridge Partnership, a committee of Stillwater residents, business owners, and environmental advocates who wish for a more conservative plan.
Courtesy of the Sensible Stillwater Bridge Partnership

A group of Stillwater residents and river protection organizations has proposed a more modest bridge over the St. Croix River that will cost half as much as the existing plan. 

Stillwater resident and urban planner Roger Tomten describes a proposal for a three-lane, 40 mph bridge that would cost about $260 million. The plan for a bigger bridge advanced by transportation officials is a four-lane, 65 mph freeway-style span costing more than $630 million. Tomten said the smaller bridge is wide enough for rush hour traffic.

"We're now proposing that this diagonal bridge be a three-lane bridge and that the center lane alternate directions to accommodate the commuter traffic that is the predominant traffic on this bridge," Tomten said. "In the mornings you have two lanes of traffic coming into Minnesota and in the afternoon you have two lanes of traffic going out to Wisconsin.

Bill Berndt, spokesman for a group supporting the larger bridge, said a three-lane St. Croix river crossing is too small to handle projected traffic demand.

"For us to do transportation planning where we're going to actually build in obsolescence probably from day one would be the height of foolishness and not a good use of tax dollars obviously," Berndt said.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton supports a larger St. Croix bridge, but that proponents need to have funding the end of September or Minnesota's contribution will be redirected to other projects. All four U.S. Senators from Wisconsin and Minnesota support the larger river bridge, although they declared their support before the announcement of a smaller alternative.

A bill still in committee in Congress would put the larger bridge in compliance with federal rules. The Interior Department last year ruled the larger bridge violated Wild and Scenic river regulations that protect the St. Croix.