Oak Park Heights decides whether to clear way for St. Croix bridge

Even as the existing Stillwater Lift Bridge between Stillwater and Houlton, Wisconsin prepares to close for repairs, the debate over plans for the new $676 million St. Croix River crossing project continues.

Oak Park Heights city council members take up the bridge at two meetings this week. Tonight, they’ll examine MnDOT’s bridge plans and decide whether they’re consistent with plans the city already approved back in the 90s. And they’ll continue to discuss how the city will pay for its share of utility work in preparation for the new bridge.

If councilmembers vote to approve the plans, it will clear the way for MnDOT to move forward on the project. A rejection by Oak Park Heights could significantly delay construction.

Several councilmembers told MPR News they expect the vote could be close, but declined to say how they’d vote.

If approved, construction could begin as early as next year and take about three years to complete.

Meanwhile, MnDOT continues laying the groundwork for the bridge project. Crews are testing rock and soil conditions at the bottom of the St. Croix River. They’ve drilled into the river bottom and placed steel shafts into the bedrock, filling them with concrete. Next, they’ll set off small explosions to measure the stability of the soil at the bridge site. The load testing project is scheduled to be complete in mid-September.

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