Stillwater lift bridge closed due to rising river
The St. Croix River is just inches below the Stillwater lift bridge.
Stillwater lift bridge
STILLWATER, Minn. -- Drivers who use the Stillwater lift bridge as a connection between Minnesota and Western Wisconsin will have to go around the long way to cross the St. Croix River.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation closed the bridge Tuesday morning because of the rising flood waters and concerns about debris and ice. Officials say it could be six days before the bridge opens again.
Dozens of people gathered Tuesday morning on the Stillwater side to see crews block the bridge's entrance.
"It's always fun watching the big pieces of equipment move the big pieces of concrete," says Bill Kelly.
The landmark lift bridge hasn't been closed because of flooding since 2001.
"It rarely happens. I remember in 1965 when it happens. It's creepy scary," says Jan Potting of Somerset.
"In a way it's eerie. To take something that's used by so many people and then just have to close it down. It forebodes of doom and gloom," says Ron Dennen who crossed the bridge just moments before it was shut down.
The closure will no doubt be inconvenient. MNDot officials say some 20,000 people cross the bridge every day. Going the long way around will be time-consuming and costly for some, like local EMS provider Lakeview Hospital.
"It requires us to staff a 4th ambulance 24 hours a day on the Wisconsin side...we normally don't staff four trucks so it's an issue with staffing," says Jon Muller of Lakeview Hospital.
And so, as the water stirs up debris, it's also stirring up that old controversy about building a new bridge across the St. Croix.
"It was always an inconvenience and it costs a lot of money to drive all the way around, but if they had a new bridge, we wouldn't have all the taxpayer dollars being spent on what we're doing today," says Bob Harried of Somerset.
MNDot officials say once the water recedes, they'll have to clean any debris off the bridge and check the structure's integrity before re-opening it.
During the closure, drivers will have to cross the St. Croix by detouring south to Interstate 94 at Hudson or north to Highway 243 at Osceola.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)