Minn.The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Wisconsin and Minnesota Departments of Transportation (WisDOT, Mn/DOT) today announced that after nearly 18 months of work, the Stakeholder Resolution Group has reached preliminary agreements on many of the major issues surrounding a new St. Croix River Crossing.
The group has agreed that the best compromise involves building a new crossing at the ‘B-1’ corridor, which is the southernmost corridor alternative.
The group further agreed that the bridge should be an extradosed bridge design. An extradosed bridge uses cables to support the bridge deck.
A key element is that the existing Stillwater Lift Bridge will be retained and converted into a connection of a bike/pedestrian loop trail between the two states.
This project was one of seven selected nationwide under an executive order signed by the president in September 2002 due to its clear regional significance, the challenging nature of the issues involved, and an overwhelming desire among the public in Minnesota and Wisconsin to resolve this question once and for all.
That designation resulted in a renewed level of cooperation among state and federal agencies involved and ensured commitment of the resources necessary to be successful.
In an effort to reach resolution, a unique stakeholder resolution process began in June 2003 that has conducted a comprehensive review of potential alternatives and given all stakeholders unprecedented access to the environmental review process and bridge design
"The progress achieved today represents exactly what President Bush had in mind when he added the Stillwater Bridge to his list of fast track projects," said Federal Highway Administrator Mary E. Peters. "Our goal is to work together to quickly find a solution that eases congestion for people in the St. Croix River basin and also protects the area's scenic, historic and environmental beauty. Although we still have much to do, I'm very encouraged and optimistic."
“I am very pleased that we have been able to reach agreement on many of the major issues and remain hopeful that after decades of effort, we may finally be able to move forward with this much needed project,” said Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi.
“There are issues that remain to be resolved including funding commitments, the resolution of Highway 36 through Oak Park Heights, local connectivity through western Wisconsin, and permitting approvals from designated agencies,” said Minnesota Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau. “Mn/DOT is committed to providing a safe transportation solution to an increasingly congested area, and we are optimistic that we can resolve the outstanding issues by putting aside our personal objectives to achieve, as a group, a larger and lasting benefit for the region.”
Transportation officials say they are hopeful a final mitigation package can be negotiated by the end of the year, and a Record of Decision completed by next spring. Construction of a new river crossing is currently scheduled to begin in 2007.