Stillwater BridgeEdit profile
The Stillwater Bridge (alternatively known as the Stillwater Lift Bridge, St. Croix River Bridge at Stillwater, Mn/DOT Bridge #4654, and Wis/DOT Bridge #M-61) is a vertical lift bridge crossing the St. Croix River between Stillwater, Minnesota, and Houlton, Wisconsin. It connects Minnesota State Highway 36 and WIS 64, and is one of two bridges on the river between the Interstate 94 bridge in Hudson, Wisconsin and the U.S. Highway 8 bridge in Taylors Falls, Minnesota, providing a popular and useful alternative to those crossings. (The other bridge is the Minnesota State Highway 243 bridge, in Osceola, Wisconsin) Around 18,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily.
The bridge consists of ten fixed steel truss spans 1,050 feet (320 m) long in total, including a vertically lifting span 140 feet (43 m) long. It is 23 feet (7.0 m) wide, allowing one lane of traffic in each direction. The lifting span is a Waddell and Harrington type, one of six built in Minnesota and Wisconsin and one of three still remaining today. Built in 1931 to replace a swing bridge from 1910, it was the last bridge of this design to be built in the area. Minnesota and Wisconsin evenly split the $460,174 cost of the bridge.
Because the bridge feeds directly into downtown Stillwater on the Minnesota side, gridlock often occurs and traffic can back up on Minnesota State Highway 36 for many miles, especially on weekends and during the summer. The effect is made worse whenever the bridge is raised. The bridge's mechanisms have remained essentially unaltered since its opening in 1931 and have on occasion become stuck.
In addition, the bridge has been deemed "structurally deficient" by inspectors, receiving a sufficiency rating of 32.8 on a 100-point scale, as of June 23, 2008. Because of the bridge's design, it is considered "fracture critical"; there is no built-in redundancy to prevent the entire structure from collapsing if one component fails. In comparison, the I-35W Mississippi River bridge, another fracture critical bridge which collapsed on August 1, 2007, received a sufficiency rating of 50. The bridge currently has a height restriction of 13 feet, 2 inches, and a weight restriction of 40 tons.
These factors have led to consideration of either replacing the bridge or constructing a new one nearby. The city of Stillwater, on January 18, 2011, officially endorsed its desire to see the bridge shut to auto traffic. However, the National Park Service's policy requires the number of bridges on the river to remain constant, precluding an additional bridge. Local sentiment for the bridge is strong, backed by the bridge's status on the National Register of Historic Places, which makes the idea of a replacement very unpopular. Beginning August 1, 2005, the Minnesota Department of Transportation closed the bridge to perform substantial repairs at a cost of $5 million provided by Congress. The project includes renovating the Tender's House so that it would conform to modern safety standards while maintaining historical preservation.
On November 11, 2005, the bridge re-opened to traffic after the bridge deck had been replaced, ending a severe three-month traffic issue on the St. Croix. In July, 2008, a truck carrying lumber exceeded the height clearance of the bridge and struck its structure as it tried to cross. The bridge had to be closed for repairs, and reopened on August 2, 2008.
The St. Croix River Crossing Project of MnDOT calls for the construction of a brand new, four-lane bridge less than a mile downriver, and converting the Stillwater Bridge to pedestrian and bicycle use. Originally, construction of this bridge was planned to start in 2024, but legislation was passed requiring the Department of Transportation to address aging bridges by 2018, and construction is now planned to start in 2013. However, on March 11, 2010, a federal judge ruled that the government had violated its rules in approving the bridge design; the process must go back to an earlier stage.
In 2009, Minneapolis architectural model builder, Feyereisen Studios, completed a model of the Stillwater Lift Bridge. The idea to build a physical model of the Stillwater Lift Bridge was undertaken in an effort to enlist the assistance of the disabled community, to make it easier for everyone to visualize and clearly understand the project. Unlike most architectural models, the model of the Stillwater Lift Bridge was designed so that the visually impaired could feel and better visualize the model. The architectural model builders enlisted the help of the visual impaired while creating the model, and utilized various unconventional materials, including magnets to make breakaway lamp posts, sandpaper to indicate detectable warnings, raised crosswalk markings to indicate the crosswalk, fuzzy grass, and everything on the model was labeled with both large text and Braille for low vision people to understand the plans for the bridge.