Recipe for a New Bridge


After four plus years of construction, the St. Croix Crossing opened for traffic on Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017.

It’s been said I am one of the project’s biggest boosters. Did I drive across it as soon as I could? Did I walk across it? Cycle across it? No comment. No comment. No comment.

What goes into constructing a bridge measuring nearly one mile long by one hundred feet wide and one hundred to one hundred fifty feet above the water?

Start with an inflatable kiddy pool. Add 563.8 million pounds of concrete, according to the DOTs. An estimated 20,947 cubic yards of concrete was used for the pier foundations. That’s about 2,100 truckloads. Some of the trucks were barged to their destinations, so the big rigs you saw floating on the river were not optical illusions. Pumping the concrete into forms may have tested the limits of hydraulic science.

There’s 5.2 miles of visible stay cables that contain another 400 miles of cable strands. There’s another 1,969 miles on non-visible cable strands. The DOTs say that’s the distance from Houlton-Stillwater to Dallas, Texas.

Assembled like a jigsaw puzzle, about 980 individual bridge segments comprise the box girder portion of the bridge. Each segment weighed up to 180 tons and was secured with epoxy and steel cables. If it’s possible for multi-ton segments to be considered hollow, then accept the fact that you could walk across the entire span from inside the bridge deck. Bring your own flashlight.

The price tag can be argued. Around $650 million is close for the entire project, and includes intersection improvements in Oak Park Heights, Minnesota, a major interchange in St. Joseph, Wisconsin and new segments of Wisconsin State Highways 35-64. Both states split the $377 million attributable to the bridge.

Kiddy pool? True story. It was used in 2012 when the contractor drilled borings into the bedrock beneath the water and muck. Because the St. Croix River is federally protected, extra steps were taken to prevent mishaps like a failed hose leaking oil onto the deck of a barge or into the river. Construction workers were instructed to spit the empty hulls of sunflower seeds into an inflatable pool to prevent them from finding their way into the St. Croix.

As Labor Day approaches, I may be seen on the new bridge again. This time reflecting on the hundreds of skilled workers who touched the project in the heat, bitter cold, rain, and humidity. The women and men from trades and labor experienced it all. The St. Croix Crossing will stand the test of time. Long may it serve the St. Croix Valley.