A coalition of businesses, individuals and groups unveiled a proposal for a new Stillwater bridge today to compete with the freeway-style design advocated for by Representative Michele Bachmann and other politicians in recent months.
The Sensible Stillwater Bridge coalition says its design would cost $407 million less than the $690 million predicted for the larger bridge that is currently awaiting a Congressional exemption from the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. It would angle across the river from Oak Park Heights to the current route up the bluff on the Wisconsin side.
The new coalition announced its proposal with a press release and press conference today. According to the release (PDF), the new design would help ensure visitors keep coming to Stillwater, while not harming the area with noise and excessive traffic:
As conceived by St. Croix Valley architects Tod Drescher, Beth Diem and Roger Tomten, the Sensible Stillwater Bridge plan utilizes a new lower and slower, three-lane bridge would cross the river diagonally, connecting Minnesota Highway 95 just south of downtown Stillwater to Wisconsin Highway 64 just east of the causeway approach to the Stillwater Lift Bridge.
Vehicle speeds on the Sensible Stillwater Bridge would be limited to 40 miles per hour, dramatically reducing noise and vibrations in the river valley, as compared to that generated by the proposed freeway-style bridge on which vehicles will travel 65 miles per hour. Travel on the Sensible Stillwater Bridge’s third lane would be managed by sophisticated traffic management technologies similar to those used by the Minnesota Department of Transportation to accommodate peak traffic demands on I-394’s MnPass lane.
The Sensible Stillwater Bridge would be as long as the proposed freeway-style bridge, but two-thirds as wide. At 60 feet from river surface to roadway deck, the Sensible Stillwater Bridge would set about 100 feet lower than the mega-bridge, but high enough to accommodate Stillwater riverboats and other tall vessels. In addition, the Stillwater Lift Bridge would be refurbished and dedicated to pedestrian and bicycle use.
This seems like a good option to me. It acknowledges the need for a new bridge, while stepping back from the biggest-and-fastest proposal advanced by the St. Croix Crossing Coalition. It would also reduce the chance for a potentially unsustainable population explosion in western Wisconsin.
That said, there is a lot more to the St. Croix River than the bridge debate. Stay tuned for more details, but don’t expect this issue to ever dominate St. Croix 360!