STILLWATER, Minn. - The Stillwater Lift Bridge will close for several months starting Monday.
The historic span over the St. Croix River will be closed to vehicle, bike and pedestrian traffic to allow workers to repair and rehabilitate it.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation is urging drivers in the eastern Twin Cities metro area and western Wisconsin to plan ahead and allow extra travel time.
Spokesman Todd Kramascz tells Minnesota Public Radio that drivers should consider alternate routes, such as the Interstate 94 bridge at Hudson, Wis., or the Highway 243 Bridge at Osceola, Wis.
"It's going to make my commute 35 miles longer, I already drive 46 miles one way. It's going to be really long," said Monica Whittstock, a Wisconsin driver caught in traffic on the lift bridge Sunday night.
Many in the downtown district have a different view, believing bridge closure improves business. Employees at Leo's Grill and Malt Shop near the bridge believe many of their customers prefer a traffic free destination, with more parking and less hassle.
"If cars are driving around, and it's congested I think it kind of deters people a little bit from coming down if they know that is how it is," said Leo's shift manager Brian Dziengel.
The lift span will open on Sundays only from Oct. 15 through Nov. 5. The bridge is expected to reopen to traffic in late December. The closure will offer a preview of what life in downtown Stillwater will be like after the new St. Croix River Crossing bridge opens.
That project is set to begin construction next year.
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