Council offers changes to Lift Bridge schedule

City seeks fewer weekday lifts during bridge construction

stillwaterThe Stillwater City Council will send proposed temporary changes to the Lift Bridge weekday lift schedule to the U.S. Coast Guard in hopes of alleviating downtown traffic woes during the St. Croix River Crossing project.

The city proposal reduces the number of lifts from 21 to 16 during the week, but makes no changes to weekend or holiday lift schedules. City Engineer and Public Works Director Shawn Sanders discussed the changes during Tuesday’s council meeting.

The current weekday lift schedule is:

    •  Every half hour from 8 to 11 a.m.
    • l Every half hour from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
    • l Every 90 minutes from 2:30 to 5:30
    • l Every half hour from 6:30 to 10 p.m.
    • Requires a 2 hour notice from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Proposed changes Sanders highlighted include:

      • l Every hour from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
      • l Every two hours from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Other times include every half hour from 7 to 10 p.m. and two-hour notice from 10:30 p.m. to 8 a.m.

The proposal would be revised when the St. Croix River Crossing project is finished.

Under the proposal, other protocols regarding lift span operation when a boat is present, emergency vehicles are crossing the bridge, 24-hour advanced notices and emergency lifts and severe weather lifts would remain.

“We’d still like to get feedback from marina and boat owners as well on the proposed changes,” Sanders said.

One boater, Randy Boler, attended the meeting and was invited to speak by Councilman Ted Kozlowski. Boler said he turned in a proposal regarding the changes.

“I’m here representing the board of directors at my marina. The board is not in favor of the changes. But it sounds like we may be jumping the gun a little,” Boler, representing the Mulberry Point Yacht Harbor Board of Directors, said.

The Coast Guard requires a 60- or 90-day comment period, then will offer resolutions to the situation.

Boler added that for him, the proposed changes would have a major impact on his business, especially 2 to 6 p.m. Boler owns the Lady Chateau passenger vessel.
“I think it’s a slippery slope to change the schedule. Who knows what other changes could happen from there,” Boler said.

“There’s no reason to make the schedule worse. It’s a temporary change to mitigate traffic and it’s been better with the bridge on the ground,” Kozlowski said. “It’s definitely temporary in our minds, and I’d be OK with possibly doing something more aggressive, like raising it every half hour further down the line when it’s a pedestrian bridge. But I don’t see how there’d be any justification for less boater-friendly plans down the line.”

“Well, the traffic impacts are up to interpretation. Are there statistics? Is it really getting better?” Boler said.

“What I hear is all the hardships of the boating community right now and no one is advocating for those residents up on the hill or downtown,” said Councilman Doug Menikheim. “There’s got to be room for compromise somewhere.”

“I do understand that there are two sides to the issue. I can’t speak for the other marinas, but I told you our board of directors opinion,” Boler said.

“Our job is to make the whole issue better for everyone,” Menikheim said.

“My feeling is that everyone is inconvenienced by this massive project and this is kind of the boaters’ piece,” Kozlowski said. “I’ve heard some people at my marina say we’re all in this together. I wish it wasn’t the case, but it is one of the tools we have to mitigate issues.”

Council instructed Sanders to send the Coast Guard a letter with the proposed changes and tell marinas they should contact the Coast Guard with their comments.
In other actions Tuesday, the council:

  •  Approved a plat and rezoning plan for Jon Whitcomb of Greystone Commercial in the Brown’s Creek Preserve subdivision.
  •   Told city staff to continue looking at funding options for an event coordinator position.
  •   Honored the work of the Minnesota Conservation Corps by declaring Wednesday Minnesota Conservation Corps Day. The group has done a long list of service projects on the city’s behalf. Their next project will be a clean-up for the Brown’s Creek Trail from 8:45 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. July 27 and includes lunch. They are currently searching for volunteers, To participate contact Cindy Green at cindy.green@conservationcorps.org or by calling 651-209-9900×16.
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