Planning is in the very early stages to replace the Osceola bridge. The departments of transportation in Minnesota and Wisconsin have their sights on year 2025.
By then, the bridge will be more than 70 years old. Built in 1953, the crossing is showing signs of deterioration that can no longer be fixed with surface-level repairs.
MnDOT inspected the bridge last week, part of its regular annual inspection schedule, and findings reinforced the need to plan for replacement.
“It’s an old bridge and it really needs to be replaced,” said Adam Josephson, MnDOT’s east area manager. “From the top it doesn’t look too bad but if you go underneath it, it has some problems. … Nothing real surprising but inspectors continue to see deterioration. When you’re under the bridge you see a long joint down the middle. That’s where the hole opened up in 2017 and that’s where they have most concerns with the bridge deck.”
Replacement was initially slated for 2028 or 2029 but has been moved up. MnDOT is getting started on a request for proposals.
“I would hope by this fall we’ll have a consultant on board,” Josephson said, “and we’ll go through the public engagement process working with various agencies, the village and other interested parties to try to identify the right thing to do out here as far as replacement of the bridge.”
Logistically, options for replacing the bridge include building alongside the existing bridge to prevent a detour, or closing the bridge and building a new one in the same place. It is not yet clear whether the standing piers will need to be replaced.
“If it’s possible to reuse the existing piers and just replace the truss and everything above it, that would make it a lot easier and a lot quicker,” Josephson said. “We’ll have to evaluate that.”
Throughout the planning process, DOT staff plan to consult stakeholders including the National Park Service, US Corps of Engineers, US Coast Guard, departments of natural resources in Minnesota and Wisconsin, tribal governments, municipal governments, businesses and residents.
Agents at the DOT don’t expect federal objection to the bridge, which runs over the federally protected St. Croix River.
“We met with the National Park Service because of the riverway,” Josephson said. “They had a lot of issues and concerns when we did the bridge in Stillwater. It slowed us down for a long time. We don’t anticipate the same issues here because it’s a bridge replacement, but they’re a key player at the federal level for doing anything with this crossing.”
MnDOT also hopes to coordinate work with other projects, including possible work at the Osceola boat launch and landing.
“We just want to let you know that we’re starting to think about replacing this,” Josephson said. “We really want to understand what the community’s issues are, and concerns.”
Osceola Bridge Quick Facts
Built: 1953, steel deck truss
Length: 674 feet
Width: 34.2 feet
Traffic: 5,300 vehicles per day
Deck and steel repairs: 2010
Deck repairs: 2017
Last inspection: April 23-24, 2019