Alternate bridge plan gets shot down
The Minnesota Department of Transportation has analyzed a proposal from the "Sensible Stillwater Bridge Partnership" related to a scaled-down version of a new St. Croix River crossing.
The partnership, which backs a three-lane bridge at a reduced cost compared to the current $690 million plan, is made up of area residents, environmental advocates and business owners. The group's proposal suggests a bridge that would be built diagonally from the curve on Minnesota Highway 36 south of Stillwater to the current Wisconsin bridge road access on the north end of the project.
In its report, MnDOT indicated that the diagonal concept has been rejected in the past because it would present greater environmental impact on the St. Croix River, a federally designated Wild & Scenic Riverway.
Also, MnDOT claimed, the three-lane bridge idea "did not adequately meet the transportation needs" of the region.
Officials also noted that, if a new site ends up being considered, construction of the span would be delayed another four to six years as additional environmental reviews, public meetings and design concepts would have to be completed.
The analysis also questioned the partnership's math, noting that the overall cost of the alternate plan would probably be similar to the current proposal, after additional land acquisition and inflation are factored in.
River crossing proponents were quick to applaud the recent news about the MnDOT report.
Ken Harycki, Stillwater mayor and co-chair of the Coalition for the St. Croix River Crossing, said the alternate plan should be shelved and the current proposal should move forward. Bridge backers are waiting for the U.S. Congress to consider a bill that would exempt the project from the Wild & Scenic Riverway Act, thus paving the way for the span's construction.
"With Congressional approval, there is only one plan for a new bridge that can be permitted and built," Harycki said. "The proposed St. Croix River Crossing works because it's the only plan that balances all the needs, interests, and laws that impact the St. Croix River Valley."