Lift bridge scheduled to close overnight for repairs after temporary fix

The Empress unloaded its passengers at Lowell Park in downtown Stillwater, after the lift bridge got stuck in a partially up position June 27. Passengers were loaded onto Stillwater Trolley Co. trolleys. (Gazette staff photo by Jonathan Young)

The Stillwater Lift Bridge is scheduled to close for repairs overnight Wednesday, June 28, after a temporary fix allowed it to operate through the day. The bridge had been closed for much of the day Tuesday, June 27, after it lost power shortly after noon and became stuck in a partially up position.

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) representative Kevin Gutknecht said the problem was electrical, and “not an issue with any mechanical components of the bridge.”

A malfunction in an electrical meter socket that monitors power usage at the Stillwater lift bridge failed, according to MnDOT, and abruptly disrupted the scheduled noon lift of the bridge June 27. The lift span of the bridge was on its downward journey at approximately 12:05 p.m. when the meter socket failed and cut electricity to the bridge. The bridge stopped about 30 feet above the water, about three quarters of its fully raised height.

A St. Croix Boat & Packet paddle wheel, the Empress, was stranded north of the lift bridge. It moored next to downtown Stillwater’s Lowell Park and unloaded its passengers onto Stillwater Trolley Co. trolleys.

Following the electrical failure, MnDOT Electrical Services Section employees and Xcel Energy crews responded to the bridge and made repairs at the bridge’s electrical service panel. The main service panel is located on land at the west end of the bridge on the Minnesota side.

Although power was restored to the bridge shortly before 8:30 p.m. June 27, MnDOT announced that after workers lowered the bridge and then attempted to lift it again, the lift span halted halfway up and remained in that position. Several employees from MnDOT’s Electrical Services Section (ESS) and the bridge tender were on the bridge when it became stalled the second time and were lifted down from the lift span with a bucket truck. Further inspection of the electrical system revealed that the main power cable that controls the lift span had burned out.

ESS crews were required to gather additional equipment and supplies and worked throughout the night to replace the damaged main power cable on the bridge in time for the morning rush hour traffic over the bridge. A temporary repair was made to the main power cable on the bridge and the bridge reopened just before 4:30 a.m. June 28.

The bridge is scheduled to close again at 10 p.m. June 28 to allow crews to make permanent repairs to the power cable. Work is expected to be completed by 6 a.m. June 29. Inclement weather could postpone repairs until 10 p.m. June 29.

Motorists are encouraged use Highway 243 at Osceola, Wis. or the Interstate 94 bridge at Hudson, Wis. to bypass the bridge.