The replacement Osceola bridge over the St. Croix River will follow the same alignment as the current approaches and span, if a plan announced by the Wisconsin and Minnesota Departments of Transportation is approved. The now 70-year-old bridge will be torn down and replaced between April 2026 and November 2027 — and unavailable for traffic during that time.
Officials explained the decision at an open house Wednesday night in Osceola. They said the current alignment will mean the fewest impacts to the river, its wildlife, and adjacent parks. MnDOT project manager Dmitry Tomasevich told an overflow crowd at the meeting in the Osceola village board’s chambers that the options of building the new span to either the north or south sides of the current bridge would have too many harmful effects and the least chance of approval by state and federal agencies.
Building to the north or south would have required traffic closures for about 12 months. Construction on the existing alignment will take up to 20 months.
The potential north alignment, which would build the new bridge on the upstream side of the existing span, would greatly disturb a cherished park and tourist attraction, Cascade Falls and Wilke Glen, where a creek tumbles through a sandstone ravine toward the St. Croix. Building on the south, downstream side would require cutting deep into the 100-foot bluff on the Wisconsin side. It would also encroach on Osceola Landing, requiring a large retaining wall.
All the options would include two 12-foot driving lanes, two four-foot shoulders, and one 12-foot pedestrian path.
Now that a preferred alignment has been identified, Tomasevich noted that agency engineers would be able to work on designs in detail. Depending on the design, construction and closure timelines could be reduced. The agencies say “innovative bridge construction techniques” could be employed to speed up the process.
Approximately 5,600 vehicles cross the bridge every day. During summer, when it provides a conduit to northwestern Wisconsin’s lake country, it can carry nearly 7,000 vehicles daily.
During the construction closure, drivers will need to follow lengthy detours to cross the river. The northern detour, across the Highway 8 bridge between Taylors Falls and St. Croix Falls, will add approximately 15 minutes each way. The southern detour across the Highway 36 bridge near Stillwater will add 30 minutes for travelers.