Gov. Dayton: St. Croix Crossing bridge to open at 8 p.m.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton at the Aug. 2 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the St. Croix Crossing bridge. (Photo by Jonathan Young)

There was an unexpected revelation at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new St. Croix Crossing bridge this morning: The bridge is scheduled to open at 8 p.m. today, Wed. Aug. 2.

MnDOT hadn’t released the schedule, saying only that the new bridge would open within 24 hours of the ceremony, but Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton spilled the beans from the stage.

“We were pleasantly surprised,” said Kevin Gutknecht, a MnDOT spokesperson. “We weren’t really going to talk about the time until it got much closer, but we will open the bridge sometime around 8 o’clock tonight, and the lift bridge will close sometime around 8 o’clock. It may not be exact. It’s not a precise science.”

MnDOT hadn’t previously released the time in hopes of minimizing traffic trying to go across the new bridge immediately when it opened or the historic lift bridge just before it closed.

Early estimates place attendance at the ribbon-cutting at roughly 2,500, based on the number of buses and staff observations, Gutnecht said.

Local, state and national officials gathered on the Minnesota approach to the bridge to dedicate the new crossing.

Speakers included Oak Park Heights Mayor Mary McComber, St. Joseph Town Board Chair Tom Spaniol, Gov. Mark Dayton, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Wisconsin Congressmen Sean Duffy and Ron Kind. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar couldn’t attend because of her Senate duties, but sent a letter for McComber to read.

Despite frequent friendly jabs about the Vikings and Packers, the speakers focused on unity and bipartisanship.

“We agreed to just do it, and we did,” Dayton said.

“This river, the St. Croix River, might divide us, but this bridge unites us,” Walker said. “It unites us even as Vikings and Packers fans.”

“This project stands out as an example of what we can accomplish when we put politics aside,” Klobuchar wrote in her letter.

McComber said Oak Park Heights residents “look forward to a new normal” after the bridge opens.

At the end of the ceremony, there were four rounds of ribbon-cuttings involving various officials and stakeholders who were involved in the bridge project.

The city of Stillwater will have a ceremony commemorating the closing of the historic lift bridge in downtown Stillwater at 6 p.m. tonight. They will celebrate at least until the lift bridge closes around 8 p.m.

More photos and coverage will follow at and in Friday’s Gazette.

Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]

This story has been updated.