State sets 2016 to finish bridge work

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The Minnesota Department of Transportation is planning on completing the new St. Croix River crossing in 2016.

Project manager Jon Chiglo told the Washington County board Tuesday that MnDOT is targeting 2016 for completion, a year earlier than MnDOT previously estimated.

"This does take time, but I think there’s a lot of excitement in the air," Chiglo said.

Chiglo, along with members of his MnDOT team, has been visiting cities impacted by bridge construction to outline preliminary plans and answer questions from local leaders and residents. MnDOT has started establishing a team to move forward with implementation and construction.

"We’ll be going to cities, counties, businesses and commuters," Chiglo said.

MnDOT officials also spoke before the Oak Park Heights City Council Tuesday.

One of the city’s major concerns has been the utility relocation cost, which Oak Park Heights officials say will be up to $20 million. MnDOT has said it will cost about $1 million.

In addition to the utility relocation cost disagreement, the city and MnDOT also differ on municipal consent for the project. Since President Obama signed bill S. 1134 into law last month, Oak Park Heights has not given municipal consent to the project. However, MnDOT officials told the council that the city gave consent to the project in 1995.

According to a district court ruling in 2007, the consent given in 1995 still stands, said Kevin Gutknecht, communications director of MnDOT.

"We do have municipal consent, so the next step is for the city to look at the plan and make sure it coincides with what they think it should," Gutknecht said.

MnDOT will host a series of open houses to listen to city officials, businesses and community members’ concerns and questions about the project.

Most open houses will be held in Oak Park Heights and Stillwater. Additional open houses will be in Bayport and Wisconsin. Upcoming open houses will be held:

n 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., tonight at Boutwells Landing, 5600 Norwich Parkway in Oak Park Heights.

n 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., April 23 at Oak Park Heights City Hall at 14168 Oak Park Blvd. N. in Oak Park Heights.

n 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., May 8 at Stillwater City Hall at 216 Fourth St. N. in Stillwater.

n 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., May 21 at Stillwater Area High School at 5701 Stillwater Blvd. in Oak Park Heights.

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