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Bird? Plane? Construction Crane!

The line from an early 1950s black-and-white TV series the Adventures of Superman went something like, “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!

Fast forward to the spring of 2022 and the line in the St. Croix Valley can be changed to, “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a construction crane!” That’s right, a no longer sleepy county at the Wisconsin-Minnesota border has transformed into East Metro’s Construction Central. Numerous commercial and multi-family sites in St. Croix are hosts of what used to be rare sights – construction cranes.

Get used to it. Cranes could be commonplace. St. Croix County, Wisconsin has its rightful place among 14 other counties that comprise the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). For bragging rights, the Twin Cities MSA is the 16th largest in the U.S. with a population of 3.75 million people and third largest in the Midwest. More civics lesson backfill – the best counties – St. Croix and Pierce – are the only Wisconsin counties in the MSA designation. All others are to the west in Minnesota, including Big Brothers Hennepin and Ramsey and St. Croix’s nearby cousins, Washington and Dakota.

Pushing the civics envelope a little further, the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) says there’s also a Combined Statistical Area (CSA) definition that gives the Twin Cities a total of 21 counties by picking up outlining metro and “micropolitan” areas like St. Cloud, Faribault-Northfield, Red Wing, Hutchinson, and Owatonna. The all-in population of the CSA is 4.1 million people. This still pales in comparison to the four-state New York-Newark CSA that boasts 23.5 million+ people. It’s all relative. Big is big. But a farmer in rural St. Croix or Pierce may not agree that he or she is remotely included in any sort of metro designation.

Back to construction cranes. Bridge building historians remind residents of the mega-cranes brought to the St. Croix River in April 2016. Construction on the St. Croix Crossing had fallen behind schedule so massive “ringer” cranes were dispatched. The river project enjoyed the notoriety having two of the four ringer cranes in North America at its construction site. Their 660-ton capacity made quick work of lifting 180-ton bridge segments into place. At the peak of river crossing project, as many as 14 cranes were operating along with 400 workers.

And how do contractors speed up work on large-scale construction projects? Bird, plane, or construction crane? The $50 million Hudson Medical Center north of I94 along Carmichael Road in Hudson has had a crane on site since October 2021. It was used to set concrete wall, floor, and roof panels into place. Just up the street at Vine and Carmichael are two cranes that complement each other at a large apartment project. Other cranes will pop up around the county, too.

The St. Croix Valley’s landscape is changing. It’s a sign of growth and progress, especially relating to commercial activities. The greater east metro area is vibrant. It’s a preferred locale and address. Here’s to construction cranes. They are now common sights.