Oak Park Heights mayor opposes St. Croix bridge through his city

Proposed bridge map
This satellite image shows the proposed route of a new St. Croix River bridge crossing south of Stillwater, Minn., at Oak Park Heights.
Map courtesy MnDOT

Oak Park Heights Mayor David Beaudet has been fighting efforts to build a freeway-style bridge across the St. Croix River and through his city.

The $690 million bridge, which is the subject of a summit in Washington D.C. today led by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, would replace the aging Stillwater Lift Bridge.

Several Minnesota leaders back the proposal, including Gov. Mark Dayton, Rep. Michele Bachmann and Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken.

Beaudet told MPR's Morning Edition that his city will end up paying for costs including relocating utilities and reconfiguring traffic signals. Estimated costs would reach $7 million to $18 million over the next 20 years, he said.

"This is a very unjust burden to the city of Oak Park Heights considering this is a regional project," he said. "It solves a problem in one community and creates a big problem in another."

If the bridge is built as a freeway with exits, Beaudet said there wouldn't be a positive economic impact to his city. And if the road has traffic lights, Beaudet is afraid Oak Park Heights would have the same issues with traffic congestion that Stillwater has with the lift bridge.

"The traffic will certainly have a very negative impact on the commercial businesses in Oak Park Heights," he said.

Beaudet acknowledged the need for a new river crossing, but he said he would rather see a bridge be built somewhere else and has supported efforts to build a smaller scale bridge through Stillwater. He said he was also disappointed leaders didn't look at the possibility of building a two-lane tunnel under the river, similar to a tunnel that was built under the Baltimore Harbor.

"We would have loved to study that proposal," he said.

The map below shows the location of Oak Park Heights, where the proposed bridge would be anchored on the Minnesota side of the St. Croix River. See the satellite image above for the proposed route.

(MPR's Cathy Wurzer contributed to this report.)

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