Wisconsin to start bridge land buys

wisdotlogoThe Wisconsin Department of Transportation plans to start talks next month to buy land for a four-lane highway leading to the Wisconsin side of the new St. Croix River bridge, according to agency officials.

Those talks come as the Minnesota Department of Transportation begins a two-year project on the Minnesota approach to the bridge on Minnesota 36 in Oak Park Heights next month.

WisDOT officials plan to present several landowners — some living on farms that have been in their families for generations — with appraisals and purchase offers in April. Those talks come months before WisDOT is scheduled to let bids in December for the project expected to begin about one year from now.

Wisconsin’s three-mile highway project that connects the new bridge with is estimated to cost $30 million to $40 million. It is a key part of the overall $675 million bridge project connecting Oak Park Heights with St. Joseph Township, Wis. Once the new bridge is finished in late 2016 or early 2017, the Stillwater Lift Bridge will be closed to vehicles and become a pedestrian and bicycle crossing as part of a loop trail on both sides of the St. Croix.

An estimated 18,000 to 20,000 vehicles are expected to use the bridge and new Wisconsin highway, a WisDOT official said.

WisDOT plans to build the new highway in two segments. The first part extends about one mile from the bridge site to St. Croix County Road E in Houlton, where a diamond interchange will be constructed. The second part runs two miles north from County Road I to Wisconsin Highway 64.