Stillwater Bridge (St. Croix River)

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Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Minnesota.jpg
The Stillwater Lift Bridge from the southwest
Carries MN 36 and WIS 64
Crosses St. Croix River
Locale Stillwater, Minnesota
Maintained by Minnesota Department of Transportation
ID number 4654 (Minnesota), M-61 (Wisconsin)
Design vertical-lift bridge
Total length 1,050 feet (320 m)
Width 23 feet (7.0 m)
Longest span 140 feet (43 m)
Opened 1931
Daily traffic


Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge (St. Croix River) is located in Minnesota
Stillwater Bridge (St. Croix River)
Coordinates 45°3′23″N 92°48′12″W / 45.05639°N 92.80333°W / 45.05639; -92.80333Coordinates: 45°3′23″N 92°48′12″W / 45.05639°N 92.80333°W / 45.05639; -92.80333
Area Less than 1 acre (0.40 ha)
Built 1931
Built by American Bridge Company, Peppard and Fulton
Architect Ash, Howard, Needles, and Tammen; Minnesota Department of Highways
NRHP Reference # 89000445[1]
Added to NRHP May 25, 1989
Roadway view of the bridge from the west

The Stillwater Bridge (alternatively known as the Stillwater Lift Bridge, St. Croix River Bridge at Stillwater, Mn/DOT Bridge #4654, and Wis/DOT Bridge #M-61) is a vertical-lift bridge crossing the St. Croix River between Stillwater, Minnesota, and Houlton, Wisconsin. It connects Minnesota State Highway 36 and Wisconsin Highway 64. Around 18,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily.[2] Construction of a new bridge crossing the St. Croix river valley is underway to the south of Stillwater, connecting the towns of Oak Park Heights, Minnesota and St. Joseph, Wisconsin. The bridge is scheduled to open to highway traffic in 2016, at which point the Stillwater Lift Bridge will be converted to bicycle/pedestrian use.[3]

The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989 for having state-level significance in the theme of engineering.[4] It was nominated for being a rare surviving example of a vertical-lift highway bridge based on the designs pioneered by Waddell & Harrington.[5] The Stillwater Lift Bridge is one of two bridges on the St. Croix River between the Interstate 94 bridge in Hudson, Wisconsin, and the U.S. Highway 8 bridge in Taylors Falls, Minnesota, providing a popular and useful alternative to those crossings. (The other bridge is the Minnesota State Highway 243 bridge at Osceola, Wisconsin.)

The bridge consists of seven fixed steel truss spans 1,050 feet (320 m) long in total, including a vertically lifting span 140 feet (43 m) long. It is 23 feet (7.0 m) wide, allowing one lane of traffic in each direction. The lifting span is a Waddell & Harrington type, one of six built in Minnesota and Wisconsin and one of three still remaining today. Built in 1931 to replace a swing bridge from 1910, it was the last bridge of this design to be built in the area. Minnesota and Wisconsin evenly split the $460,174 cost of the bridge.[5]


Beginning August 1, 2005, the Minnesota Department of Transportation closed the bridge to perform substantial repairs at a cost of $5 million provided by Congress. The project included renovating the Tender's House so that it would conform to modern safety standards while maintaining historical preservation. On November 11, 2005, the bridge re-opened to traffic after the bridge deck had been replaced.

In July, 2008, a truck carrying lumber exceeded the height clearance of the bridge and struck its structure as it tried to cross. The bridge had to be closed for repairs, and reopened on August 2, 2008.[6] In 2012 the bridge was closed again for a construction project to make more steel repairs.

The St. Croix River Crossing Project of MnDOT calls for the construction of a brand new, four-lane bridge less than a mile downriver and the conversion of the Stillwater Bridge to pedestrian and bicycle use. Originally, construction of this bridge was planned to start in 2024, but legislation was passed requiring the Department of Transportation to address aging bridges by 2018, and the start date was moved up to 2013.[7] However, on March 11, 2010, a federal judge ruled that the government had violated its rules in approving the bridge design, which sent the process back to an earlier stage.[8]

In 2009 Minneapolis architectural model builder Feyereisen Studios completed a model of the Stillwater Lift Bridge. The idea to build a physical model of the Stillwater Lift Bridge was undertaken in an effort to enlist the assistance of the disabled community, so as to make it easier for everyone to visualize and clearly understand the project. Unlike most architectural models, the model of the Stillwater Lift Bridge was designed so that the visually impaired could explore it by sense of touch. The architectural model builders enlisted the help of the visually impaired while creating the model, and utilized various unconventional materials, including magnets to make breakaway lamp posts, sandpaper to indicate detectable warnings, raised crosswalk markings to indicate the crosswalk, and fuzzy grass. Everything on the model was labeled with both large text and Braille to enable people with low vision to understand the plans for the bridge.[9]


Because the bridge feeds directly into downtown Stillwater on the Minnesota side, gridlock often occurs and traffic can back up on Minnesota State Highway 36 for many miles, especially on weekends and during the summer. The effect is made worse whenever the bridge is raised. The bridge's mechanisms have remained essentially unaltered since its opening in 1931 and have on occasion become stuck.[citation needed]

In addition, the bridge has been deemed "structurally deficient" by inspectors, receiving a sufficiency rating of 32.8 on a 100-point scale, as of June 23, 2008.[10] Because of the bridge's design, it is considered "fracture critical"; there is no built-in redundancy to prevent the entire structure from collapsing if one component fails. In comparison, the I-35W Mississippi River bridge, another fracture-critical bridge that collapsed on August 1, 2007, received a sufficiency rating of 50.[11] The bridge currently has a height restriction of 13 feet 2 inches (4.01 m) and a weight restriction of 40 tons.[10]

See also[edit]

The bridge in 2013 with its lift span raised


  1. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ Giles, Kevin (July 9, 2008) "Tuesday: Still overworked in Stillwater" Star Tribune
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Stillwater Bridge". Minnesota National Register Properties Database. Minnesota Historical Society. 2009. Retrieved 2015-06-23. 
  5. ^ a b Hess, Jeffrey A. (August 1988). "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Stillwater Bridge" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2015-08-22. 
  6. ^ "Stillwater Lift Bridge opens to traffic". Minnesota Department of Transportation. August 4, 2008. 
  7. ^ "St. Croix River Crossing Project: Revised Construction Dates" (PDF). Minnesota Department of Transportation. June 2008. 
  8. ^ "Plans for new St. Croix bridge headed back to drawing board". Minnesota Public Radio. March 2010. 
  9. ^ Wowza, Inc. Feyereisen Studios Designs Bridge Model for the Blind to Better Visualize the Stillwater Lift Bridge "Stillwater Lift Bridge: Dates" Check |url= value (help). Wowza, Inc. and PR Log. February 2009. 
  10. ^ a b "MN/DOT Bridge Inventory Report" (PDF). Minnesota Department of Transportation. December 15, 2008. 
  11. ^ "Over 100 state bridges rated worse than 35W". St. Paul Pioneer Press. Retrieved 2007-08-05. 

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