The "" to replace the 80-year-old Stillwater Lift Bridge was rejected by MnDot, falling to sharp criticism in a four-page report released Wednesday afternoon.
The report states that the diagonal bridge concept would have significant additional environmental impacts, a lengthy schedule delay, the costs estimates for the diagonal concept were either “under-stated or not addressed” and the proposal would still be subjected to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
The diagonal bridge concept proposed as the “Sensible Stillwater Bridge Partnership Alternative” is an idea that has a long history with the project, the report states. A similar concept, first proposed by a group of three architects in 1999, was given thoughtful review and rejected.
During the Stakeholder and Environmental Impact Statement process (2002-06), two alternatives were developed based on the three architects’ concept; they were both thoroughly studied and ultimately dismissed from further consideration.
“The current diagonal concept proposed by this group has been modified from earlier concepts, but the location of the diagonal crossing and many of the impacts to protected resources remain similar to the 1999 concept and the alternates studied in the Stakeholder/EIS process,” the report states.
The “Sensible Stillwater Bridge Partnership Alternative” has stated from the launch of their proposal that the slower, lower three-lane bridge designed to cross the St. Croix River diagonally (from an area near the Oasis Café to the current lift bridge) would cost a fraction of the hefty $690 million price tag for the “boondoggle” bridge.
But the MnDot report states that high-level estimates for the total cost of the diagonal proposal “are likely to be in the same cost range as the currently planned project,” rather than the current estimates that the diagonal bridge would cost between $236-$283 million.
Other main points from the MnDot report state:
- The diagonal concept impacts are greater on historic properties (Section 106 protected), park properties (Section 4(f) protected), bluff areas (Section 7(a) protected), floodplains, wetlands, commercial properties, and endangered mussel habitat.
- … It does not appear that the cost of the diagonal concept would yield significant cost savings compared to the planned project.
- The planned project provides extensive storm water ponding in Minnesota and Wisconsin to address these concerns. The diagonal concept does not.
- The environmental process for the diagonal concept could take four to six years. Design and property acquisition will take an additional three years. Under this scenario, if the project survives the environmental process, the soonest construction of a new crossing could begin is 2019.
- Water quality was not addressed with the diagonal concept.
- A three-lane bridge with a reversible center lane may have greater traffic issues than a four-lane bridge.
- Bluff and river impacts near each shoreline will occur with the diagonal crossing.