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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Stillwater Lift Bridge
MN-36/WI-64 Saint Croix River Crossing
Stillwater, MN

Stillwater Bridge

• Structure ID: NBI: 4654 (MN), B55091900000000 (WI).
• Location: River Mile 23.4.
• River Elevation: 675 Feet.
• Highway: MN-36, WI-64.
• Daily Traffic Count: 18,000 (2007).
• Bridge Type: Steel Through Truss With Lift Section.
• Length: 1,053 Feet.
• Width: 2 Traffic Lanes, 23 Feet Wide.
• Navigation Channel Width: 135 Feet.
• Height Above Water: 17 Feet (Lowered), 65 Feet (Raised).
• Date Built: Opened 1931.
The Stillwater Lift Bridge spans the Saint Croix River at Stillwater, Minnesota. This bridge, one of only two automobile lift bridges in the state, consists of six fixed spans of 140 feet each, plus a 140 foot vertical lift section. The 1,050 foot long bridge plus a 750 foot causeway on the Wisconsin side combine to span the approximately 1800 foot wide river.

The Stillwater Lift Bridge is not able to handle the traffic that desires to cross the river. Traffic often backs up all the way through Stillwater and down highway 95 and MN-36. A new 4-lane freeway bridge has been proposed, but just about every interest group in the free world has lined up against it. While the Stillwater bridge fits in with the image of Stillwater, I advocate that quality of life would be higher for locals, tourism would increase, and the folks living in Western Wisconsin would have better access to the twin cities if a new high bridge was built a few miles down river.

On April 15, 2008, MN-DOT opened the Stillwater Lift Bridge for the first time in the 2008 season. At about 10:00 AM, the bridge lifted up in the air, but then refused to come back down. Engineers and technicians were brought in, and spent about 4 hours locating a bad electrical connection. The bridge was finally brought back down about 2:00 PM in the afternoon, just in time to clear out the traffic backup and get ready for the evening commuter rush. The bridge became stuck in the open position again at 12:30 PM on September 26, 2008, when sensors on the bridge malfunctioned, and refused to allow the bridge to close. The bridge was stuck in the open position for just over 8 hours.

On July 7, 2008, a boom truck entered the bridge from the Wisconsin side of the river and became jammed under the upper bridge beams. It took 5 hours to remove the truck and inspect the bridge for damage. The bridge was reopened to cars and pick-up trucks, but due to the extensive damage to the structure, truck traffic will be banned from the bridge until the bridge can be repaired.

Update—on July 10, 2008, MN-DOT announced the plan for fixing the Stillwater Lift Bridge. The bridge will be closed for several weeks starting July 16, 2008, and remain closed through early August. This time is needed to replace the damaged steel structural members. Due to an expected influx of traffic for an annual festival, the bridge will be temporarily opened to cars for the weekend of July 23 to July 28.

Update—once again, the Stillwater Lift Bridge is closed for an extended period of time. It was shut down on September 10, 2012, and was not expected to open until the first week of December, 2012. The bridge will undergo a rehabilitation that includes repairing steel connectors, electrical upgrades, repair of the concrete deck, replacement of floor beams, repainting portions of the structure, guardrail replacement, and curb and gutter work. While this is a significant amount of work, it is needed because the replacement bridge will not be ready for several years. It is also not wasted work since the lift bridge will remain in service as a regional trail and fishing deck after the new Saint Croix Crossing bridge opens.

The photo above is a view of the south face of the Stillwater Lift Bridge as it crosses the Saint Croix River from Minnesota on the near side to Wisconsin on the far side. The photo below is a view of lift span as seen from the bluffs in Stillwater high above the west bank of the river.


Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
These two photos show the five fixed truss spans on the east side of the lift span, as seen from two different locations along the edge of the river bluffs in Stillwater. Wisconsin is on the far side of the river.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
These two photos are closer views of the fixed truss spans towards the east end of the Stillwater Lift Bridge. The photo above is the easternmost span and east bridge abutment. The photo below is the second, third, and fourth bridge spans counting towards the west from the Wisconsin side.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
The photo above is the portal on the Minnesota side of the river looking to the east. The photo below is a view of the lift span from the riverfront just downriver of the structure in Stillwater.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
These two photos are views looking down the length of the south face of the Stillwater Lift Bridge. The photo above is looking east towards Wisconsin, while the photo below is looking west towards Minnesota. These two photos, and the next two that follow, were taken Sunday, March 21, 2010, just hours before the bridge was planned to be closed due to high water.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
These two photos are views of the Stillwater Lift Bridge looking northeast towards Wisconsin from the riverfront in downtown Stillwater. The photo above is a view of the bridge with the temporary levee in the foreground. The photo below is a closer view of the lift span.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
The Stillwater Lift Bridge was eventually closed for the flood on the morning of Tuesday, March 23, 2010, just after the morning rush hour. These two photos are views from the following afternoon. The photo above is an overview of the scene at the west end of the bridge, while the photo below is a view looking through the first bridge span. Concrete K-blocks were placed on the bridge spans to prevent them from being dislodged in the flood.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
These two photos are views of the south face of the Stillwater Lift Bridge after it was closed for the Flood of 2010. The lift span was raised to prevent the electrical wiring from getting wet. The photo above is an overview, while the photo below is a close view of the lift span.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
These two photos are views of the north face of the Stillwater Lift Bridge. The photo above is an overview with the temporary dike in the foreground, while the photo below is a close view of the lift span. The water was predicted to rise another foot at the crest of the flood. That would put the water above the low steel, but not over the bridge deck.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
These two photos are views of the west bridge portal on the Minnesota side of the river. There is a small plaza located on the Stillwater side of the river. The photo above is looking through the truss structure, while the photo below is a closer view of the west end of the bridge. Note the heavy traffic coming out of western Wisconsin.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
The photo above is a view looking at the plaza from the west end of the bridge. A railroad track once crossed the highway at the end of the plaza, but that railroad has since been abandoned and removed. The caution tape is to prevent spectators from getting close to the water during the flood. The photo below is the start of our walking trip across the bridge.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
These two photos are views looking east down the length of the sidewalk that is attached to the south side of the bridge structure. The photo above shows the bridge railing to good advantage, while the photo below shows the sidewalk in relation to the bridge truss structure.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
These two photos are views looking back towards Minnesota while walking across the Stillwater Lift Bridge. The photo above is from the lift span, while the photo below is from the center truss span. Note the crossing arm in the photo below. This crossing arm not only blocks the highway traffic when the lift span is operated, it also blocks pedestrian traffic.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
The photo above is a small concrete detail located on the north side of the bridge at the east end of the structure. The photo below is looking east along the causeway leading to the Wisconsin side of the river. Highway WI-64 climbs a relatively steep hill to get to the top of the bluffs.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
The photo above is looking west towards the east bridge portal from the highway WI-64 causeway near the eastern shore of the Saint Croix River. The photo below is a closer view of the east bridge portal.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
The photo above is looking west down the length of the highway deck from the east end of the Stillwater Lift Bridge. The photo below is a view of the steel truss structure where the first two truss sections are joined on the east end of the bridge.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
The photo above is looking west down the length of the highway deck from the point where the first two bridge truss spans meet on the east end of the Stillwater Lift Bridge. The photo below is a view of the west bridge portal as seen from the bridge sidewalk.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
These two photos are examples of the deterioration of the bridge structure. The photo above shows a steel plate that has rusted completely through. The photo below shows several layers of rust that is peeling off of a joiner between two beams.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
These two photos are examples of pre-war metalwork on the truss spans. The photo above is a gusset plate that joins six different beams. The photo below is a joint where beams from several different directions meet at the same location. Note the crossmember that is made up of two parallel steel beams that are connected by a series of small metal tabs that are joined with rivets. This is very typical of pre-war bridge construction.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
The photo above is the bridge tender house and an equipment room that is attached to the north side of the lift span. The photo below is a view looking up at the eastern of the two lift towers. The lift span is raised by cables that are looped over a pulled and balanced by a heavy weight.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
The photo above is the bridge plate. The photo below is the arm that blocks the westbound traffic lane when the bridge is being operated.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
These two photos are scenes from near the west end of the Stillwater Lift Bridge. The photo above is looking north from highway MN-36 along the length of the temporary dike that was being built along the riverfront in downtown Stillwater. The photo below is a park shelter that is flooded out.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
These two photos, and the eight that follow, were taken in the late autumn of 2010. Once again, we see high water on the Saint Croix River with flooding along the riverfront in Stillwater. These two photos are looking east towards Wisconing along the south face of the Stillwater Lift Bridge.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
These two photos were taken from the riverfront park in Stillwater just south of the bridge abutment. The reflections off of the water make it hard to tell how high the water is. In fact, it is within a few feet of the bottom of the bridge deck. In the photo below, the street sign on the bridge gives a clearance of 9 feet 6 inches, but the water is about 5 feet below that sign.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
These two photos are focusing on the lift span, which is the second truss span from the Minnesota side of the river. The sun is located southeast of the bridge in this early morning view, which creates shadows within the structure highlights the detail in the steelwork.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
The water was extremely still at the time of my visit, resulting in almost mirror-like reflections off of the water. Adding to the effect is the pure blue sky, which is reflecting off of the water, making the water look the same color as the sky.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
These two photos are wider shots taken from several hundred feet downstream show the entire bridge reflection. We also see more examples of the flooding in the foreground where only the tops of posts, railings, and lights of the riverfront trail are sticking above the water.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
These two photos are views looking southeast from the waterfront in Stillwater. These photos are from late in the afternoon when the sun is in the northwest sky, which briefly lights up the north face of the bridge before the sun ducks below the bluffs. The photo above is a view of the entire bridge, while the photo below is the five fixed spans on the east side of the lift span.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
These two photos, and the four that follow, are views from 2nd Street North near Pioneer Park. We are looking southeast late in the afternoon when the sun briefly lights up the north side of the structure. The photo above is a wide shot of the entire bridge, while the photo below is a closer view of the fixed span on the Minnesota side of the lift span.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
These two photos are additional views looking southeast from Pioneer Park. The photo above is the lift span, while the photo below is the first fixed span on the Wisconsin side of the lift span. The building roof in the foreground is the top of the Stillwater Mills condo project, which features 98 upscale homes along with 14,000 square feet of retail space.

Stillwater Bridge
Stillwater Bridge
These two photos are additional views looking southeast from Pioneer Park. The photo above shows the three spans at the middle of the structure, which is the 3rd, 4th, and 5th spans counting from either end of the crossing. The photo below are the first three spans on the Wisconsin end of the river crossing. Note that there is a very short concrete culvert span at the Wisconsin end of the river crossing.

Stillwater Bridge

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