New bridge animations, model at open houseAn open house on the future of the Stillwater Lift Bridge held last Thursday in Stillwater yielded few changes to plans released nearly a year ago. However, new animations and a scale model of a restored and renovated structure breathed life into plans that had previously been trapped within two dimensions.
By: By Mark Brouwer, Hudson Star-Observer
An open house on the future of the Stillwater Lift Bridge held last Thursday in Stillwater yielded few changes to plans released nearly a year ago. However, new animations and a scale model of a restored and renovated structure breathed life into plans that had previously been trapped within two dimensions.
The model, painted deep green and built at a cost of $10,000 by Minneapolis-based Feyereisen Studios, showed that the bridge’s current automobile lanes would be replaced by bicycle and pedestrian lanes that could be blocked by gates at either end.
Further, it demonstrated how a circular concrete structure at the lift bridge’s west end, called a concourse, would be restored. When the bridge opened in 1931, traffic passed over a hexagonal concrete slab around which a circle of pavements, sidewalk and balustrades was punctuated with 10 cast-iron lampposts fitted with globe-shaped, alabaster fixtures.
Today, the concourse is in disrepair, with fixtures missing or inoperable and the original concrete is in disrepair and paved over with blacktop.
The restoration would mimic the concourse’s original features, with LED lights installed into fixtures made of metal and plastic, to limit energy costs and replacement costs.
An animation demonstrating the restoration, as well as the management plan that explains it in detail, can be viewed at www.stillwatercourier.com or seen in its original context on the Minnesota Department of Transportation lift bridge Web site at www.dot.state.mn.us/metro/projects/liftbridge.
Under the management plan, the lift bridge structure and surroundings would be extensively rehabilitated within a year of the interstate bridge completion. Further, a loop trail would connect the ends of the lift bridge with the new interstate bridge about a mile downriver.
Also included in the management plan:
• Damaged concrete piers beneath the lift bridge, steel trusses above it, and railings along its deck would all be repaired or replaced.
• Counterweight cables, wheels and other parts of the lift mechanism would be restored to allow the bridge deck to continue lifting for river traffic.
• Existing blacktop road surface would be removed to reveal the original concrete, and railings and lampposts that are in disrepair would be fixed.
• In addition to the lift bridge being repainted its original deep-green color, its railings would be painted an “aluminum” color similar to one specified in the bridge’s original specifications.
Funding, court challenges remain
Whether the lift bridge project will be completed depends on the outcome of the St. Croix River Crossing project, which remains to be fully funded and is currently being challenged in federal court by the Sierra Club-Northstar Chapter. A verdict remains weeks, and possibly months, away.
At the open house, state transportation officials seemed less concerned about the legal challenge and focused more on finances.
Todd Clarkowksi, MnDOT east area engineer, said the Legislature’s decision last spring to fund Minnesota’s roughly one half of the overall project cost in 2013 greatly increased the chances it will be completed.
“Basically, we are in a good position from an approval standpoint,” he said. “We’re waiting to see what Wisconsin and the federal government will be able to do.”
Frequently, the federal government pays 80 percent of such interstate projects, while two partner states will split the remaining 20 percent. Although MnDOT anticipates Congress will grant funding for the project in the next federal transportation bill, the agency is prepared to pay for the entire project using state funds if federal funding isn’t secured by 2013.
“What it shows is MnDOT considers this project a priority,” Clarkowski said. “It’s also a sign to Wisconsin that we are committed to seeing this through.”
To date, Wisconsin has not committed to providing matching funds for a states-only project. According to Terry Pederson, district planning projects engineer for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the project is competing with a handful of other priority projects, mostly in the Milwaukee area.