A stroke or two of the governor’s pen could stop 18-wheelers from rolling over a bridge in need of replacement.
In an effort to relieve congestion and increase safety, Rep. Matt Dean (R-Dellwood) and Sen. Ray Vandeveer (R-Forest Lake) sponsor HF1204/SF1091*, which would prohibit motor vehicles longer than 55 feet from using Highway 36 between Highway 95 and the Stillwater Lift Bridge.
The bill was approved 133-0 by the House April 29; 67-0 by the Senate April 6.
City officials initially wanted a truck weight prohibition, but in working with the Department of Transportation, Dean said the bill was made applicable only to a stretch of road, so it doesn’t set a precedent for other bridges. “We’ve also gone from a weight limitation to a length limitation to allow for more interstate commerce to help folks in Minnesota and Wisconsin. We’ve tried to accommodate as many people while addressing a safety issue.”
The idea is to keep large trucks of the bridge. Most semis exceed the 55-foot limit.
A 2008 Department of Transportation review found the bridge to be “fracture-critical.” A new span over the St. Croix River is expected to be open by 2016.
Dean said $5 million in improvements has been put into the 1,000-foot span in recent years, but it is still not adequate for the truck traffic. He said a truck struck the bridge last summer, closing it for several weeks. Another incident occurred in mid-March.
A saturation study conducted by law enforcement officials found that many of the large, over-the-road trucks going through Stillwater had major violations. More than half of those inspected had to be taken off the road, Dean said. “What is happening is they’re sneaking across to avoid the Hudson inspection station (along Interstate 94).”
Signs would be posted on the Minnesota side of the bridge and Wisconsin is requested to do the same on its side.
“We think we finally have a solution that’s moderate and modest and effective,” said Rep. Julie Bunn (DFL-Lake Elmo). She noted the longer trucks sometimes have to back-up to make a turn in downtown Stillwater and have hit buildings and other city fixtures when doing so.
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