Public is invited to several bridge events

Pictured is the view from above the median of the new St. Croix Crossing Bridge looking west July 28. (Gazette staff photo by Jonathan Young)

UPDATE: Stillwater has announced changes to its lift bridge celebration schedule, but the official ribbon-cutting ceremony remains unchanged.

After decades waiting, local communities look forward to the opening of a new bridge over the St. Croix River next week. The public is invited to participate in several events to mark the occasion.

Kicking off the festivities is the project dedication ceremony, scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 2, on the Minnesota side of the bridge. Local, state and federal officials are expected to participate.

No public parking will be available around the bridge, but shuttles will be provided from both the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the river.

In Minnesota, parking will be available at the former Fury Motors car lot at the corner of Osgood Avenue and Highway 36; Stillwater Middle School, at 523 W. Marsh St.; and Stillwater Area High School, at 5701 Stillwater Blvd. N. Shuttles on the Minnesota side will run as needed 8-9:30 a.m.

On the Wisconsin side, a shuttle will run from the Somerset School District campus and will load in front of the high school at 645 Sunrise Drive, Somerset. Wisconsin shuttles will run as needed 7:30-9 a.m.

Shuttle service will resume about half an hour after the dedication ends, with the last shuttle departing about an hour after the ceremony ends.

Oak Park Heights Mayor Mary McComber warned there will be traffic impacts from the ceremony and asked area residents to respect no parking and detour signs.

“There are going to be detours the day of the ribbon cutting,” she said, but noted they’re “very short term.”

Immediately following ceremony, the city of Oak Park Heights and town of St. Joseph, Wis., invite the public to enjoy free ice cream in Oak Park Crossing Park, within sight of the new bridge, while supplies last. The park is at 15055 60th St. N. in Oak Park Heights, next to Phil’s Tara Hideaway.

“It’s been a long haul coming,” McComber said of the bridge. “It should be celebrated.”

“We’re very excited in St. Joseph, because of easier access for residents of western Wisconsin who work in Minnesota,” said Tom Spaniol, chair of the St. Joseph Town Board.

In Stillwater, immediately after the dedication of the new bridge, city leaders will gather in Lowell Park downtown, for a brief ceremony to celebrate the lift bridge’s 86 years of service.

Stillwater city leaders will reconvene in south Lowell Park at 6 p.m. for a public festival being billed as the “Cruisin’ to Closure.” The city and civic leaders are partnering to expand the already-scheduled Cruisin’ on the Croix car show to accommodate the large crowds expected to gather downtown for the final closure of the bridge to automobile traffic.

Stillwater Mayor Ted Kozlowski said the event will mark “the day and time we get our downtown back,” because the closure of the lift bridge to vehicle traffic is expected to significantly reduce congestion downtown. MnDOT is not releasing the time the new bridge is scheduled to open to traffic or what time the lift bridge will close.

The city is also planning a bridge-closing party and polka street dance 5-10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12. The city council unanimously approved the event July 11. Chestnut Street will be closed from Main Street to the lift bridge for the street dance.

The idea for a dance reflects the opening celebration for the lift bridge in 1931, when a dance was held at the armory in the evening, according to reporting in the Stillwater Gazette at the time.

The event will feature the polka band Alpensterne, food vendors and a beer garden.

For information on the bridge dedication ceremony, go to dot.state.mn.us/stcroixcrossing/events.html.

Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]

This story has been updated.