OAK PARK HEIGHTS, Minn. - After decades of discussion, years of construction and countless delays, the St. Croix Crossing Bridge is finally set to open to traffic at 8 p.m., Wednesday night.
An estimated 3,000 people showed up for a ceremonial ribbon cutting on the Minnesota side of the bridge in Oak Park Heights at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning.
"That bridge probably cost a lot of money to build," said 7-year-old Will Persico, who attended with his family.
Though the bridge project did cost roughly $650 million, the price was just one hurdle the project has faced in the decades since it was first discussed.
"Today is the day which many people thought would never arrive," said Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, as he addressed the crowd.
Both Dayton and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said the bridge, which will effectively replace the Stillwater lift bridge, took years of hard work that spanned states and political parties.
"Any governor that can get Michelle Bachman and Al Franken together on the same subject has done a remarkable task," Walker said. "So thank you Governor Dayton."
They, along with local mayors and elected representatives, also thanked the thousands of people who helped build it.
Lowell Schmoeckel was one of those people. In the 1990s Schmoeckel helped lead boat support as crews tested the bedrock below the St. Croix. In the past four years he operated boats and barges for construction efforts on the water.
"In 2015 I had a little over 1,000 hours of overtime," Schmoeckel said.
As a Stillwater native, Schmoeckel said the bridge gives new life to the area and represents an important turning point. A moment he's proud to be part of.
"Very (proud), and to be a part of the history of it is crazy," he said.
Crazy that the massive project is finally reality.
"Imagine how much hard work it took them to build this bridge," Persico said. "It's like somebody sewed Wisconsin and Minnesota together."
When the St. Croix Crossing opens on Wednesday evening, the Stillwater lift bridge will simultaneously close to traffic. The historic structure will reopen to bike and pedestrian traffic only in two years.
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