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June 20, 2021

5/28/2021 2:27:00 PM
Bridge replacement planning: public input sought

The two-state bridge that spans the St. Croix River at Osceola is due for replacement.  The Wisconsin and Minnesota Departments of Transportation have released some planning considerations on early design elements, and now seek public comment until June 4.

The Osceola Bridge work is planned to be in state budgets for 2025.   

This crossing is seven miles downstream from the next closest at Taylors Falls and it is 23 miles from the Oak Park Heights span downstream. Built almost 70 years ago,  the span is narrow and doesn’t offer great design elements for the extensive recreational aspects of the riverway, so one of the issues the project documents touch on is a bike-ped lane on a future bridge.  Public comment on the desirability for a lane or two for recreational use is welcomed.

Lanes now are 12 feet wide and the bridge deck is a total of 34 feet.

Inspections also support the project, with the most recent a year ago.  The April 2020 report said the bridge deck underside is in poor shape and there is corrosion and pitting on gusset plates. A vertical truss shows bowing and a bulge. Expansion bearings no longer function as designed.  The substructure of the bridge gets a 6 and the superstructure is rated “fair” at 5.   As a whole the NBI rating is a four.

How the bridge works into the local road system and the historic Osceola downtown are also considerations.  The intersection of 243 and Hwy. 95 in Chisago County is not included in the current comment period but MnDOT is aware of shortcomings at that crossroads.

Impacts on the river navigation, the use of the landing below the bridge area and improvements to the stormwater drainage system are all issues the two states want to hear suggestions about.

St. Croix Riverway water quality, south of Taylors Falls is listed as being impaired— due to PCBs in fish, mercury levels and nutrients in the water.  The states declare in the project website documents that they view this project as an opportunity to address stormwater management prior to it being discharged into the riverway.

Analysis shows the average daily traffic counts on 243 will increase by 1,800 by 2040. On the roads into the bridge like Hwy. 95 in Minnesota and Hwy. 35 in Wisconsin the traffic count will go up 3,500 daily by 2040.  Counts are at 5,600 per day on the bridge now.

How about the landing?
The bridge is separate from the property owned by the National Park Service that sits beneath the span.  

The National Park Service collected public opinions on improvements to the Osceola landing, starting over a year ago.

Comment period is closed for park service planning needs and the riverway superintendent tells the Press the bids for contractors for the first phase of the landing are being solicited right now.  

St. Croix Riverway Supt. Julie Galonska explained that the NPS realizes the bridge work could impact the area nearby so the landing project is being pursued in two parts.  The first part which could start this fall— is from the comfort building downstream to the point.  This is referred to as the day use area.  

When the bidder is decided there will be more information as to the timetable and. any closure impacts on the site, Supt. Galonska added.

The bridge is slated for 2025 so the part of the landing closest to where the bridge spans actually touches land is delayed until bridge work gets going.  Supt.  Galonska said the extent of what’s needed to be repaired and/or replaced will be very complex, and the best plan is to wait and see  what the NPS will be contending with.

To view the documents for the bridge comment process go to MnDOT.gov/metro/projects/hwy243osceola.  There are three categories that you click on for PDF versions of need, purpose.

The public comments are contributed on the website, see instructions.  The feedback is used to evaluate alternatives and select an option.  

If you wish to send comments by mail you can type or wite what you have to say— and send to Dmitry Tomasevich MnDOT 1500 West County Road B2 Roseville, MN 55113-3174.

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