Lift Bridge will look more like old self after renovations

August 9, 2017

Now that St. Croix Crossing is open, Stillwater will turn its eyes on its iconic historic Lift Bridge as it is converted from a roadway to a five-mile pedestrian and bicycle loop trail.

The Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Transportation held a community open house at Stillwater City Hall July 20 to present the upcoming changes to anyone interested. The project, which St. Croix Crossing Project Coordinator Todd Clarkowski estimated will cost about $8.7 million, is part of the mitigation required by the St. Croix Crossing project.

The Lift Bridge will undergo improvements and renovations until it reopens in 2019. These changes include repairs to the steel connections, restoration of mechanical and electrical components, repair to concrete railings, reconstruction of the concourse on the Minnesota side and a fresh coat of paint.

Bob Frame of consulting firm Mead & Hunt explained how the project dug down into the details to bring the bridge as close to its 1931 appearance as possible. The asphalt that currently paves the concourse will be replaced with the same coarse mix of concrete that was originally poured there. New iron lampposts will be commissioned by the same company that created them in 1931, and the lamps themselves will no longer be made of acrylic, but glass as originally intended. (An erroneous term on the bridge’s original plans stated the lamps should be “alabaster,” which most likely meant white glass).

Most notably, the bridge will return to its green color. In 1942, the bridge was painted gray instead of green due to a shortage of green paint during the war, and has stayed gray since then.

Along with these historically accurate improvements come modern improvements and alterations for ADA accessibility. The sidewalks will include three ramps to allow everyone to enjoy the view from all parts of the bridge. There will be new cameras under the bridge to give lift operators a better view of the area surrounding the bridge. Braille will be added to the commemorative plaques in the area. A new swinging gate will emulate a similar gate that was originally installed to keep people safe while the bridge was in the up position.

Adding these alterations wasn’t easy, as the bridge is protected under several historical designations.

“Some of the changes are subtle, but it took a lot of work to get them,” Frame said. “There’s complicated engineering behind what looks simple.”

READ MORE in St. Croix Valley Area Lowdown