Q&A with project manager
State Highway 243 spans a total distance of 1.5 miles. That makes it the shortest regularly-signed highway in the state of Wisconsin, although only the 14th shortest highway in Minnesota. The bridge across the St. Croix River that takes up a good portion of that mile and a half is set for reconstruction in 2025. The bridge was built in 1953, and carries approximately 2 million cars between Minnesota and Wisconsin every year. The Sun recently chatted with Dmitry Tomasevich, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Metro District East Area Engineer and Project Manager about the bridge. He discussed the early stages of planning for the project and how it might affect traffic flow once it gets underway.
Sun: What is the current condition of the bridge and why has it been slated for reconstruction?
Tomasevich: In 2017 a bridge deck repair project occurred to address several bad areas in the bridge deck. MnDOT inspects the bridge annually, the last inspection occurred in April 2021, no new areas of concern were identified during this last inspection. MnDOT uses these inspections of the bridge deck, trusses, supports and a number of other factors to evaluate the overall condition of the bridge and if further repairs are needed or if major repairs are need or if a bridge replacement should be considered. Based on all these factors it was decided that a bridge replacement would be the best long-term solution for the Hwy 243 bridge crossing. WisDOT has also been consulted and concurred with a replacement need for the bridge.
Sun: How much of the bridge will be rebuilt? Will it be replaced completely or simply updated?
Tomasevich: The project team is evaluating possibly reusing the bridge piers or if the entire bridge should be replaced and will look at a number of alternatives in the preliminary design phase while following the environmental documentation process.
Sun: How will river access be affected by the project?
Tomasevich: The project team will evaluate river access and impacts during construction, it is recognized that access to the river and the Osceola Landing are very important and that they both need to remain open as much as possible particularly during the summer months.
Sun: Are there any early estimates on the cost of the project?
Tomasevich: Not at this time. The project team will evaluate cost estimates as they get further into project development.
Sun: Will the reconstruction expand access to pedestrian traffic, and how?
Tomasevich: The project team will consider bridge alternatives that include the bike and pedestrian needs for the Hwy 243 bridge. The sensitive environmental constraints on both the Minnesota and Wisconsin road approaches will also be taken into consideration as these changes are evaluated.
Sun: Is there an estimated timetable on the project once it begins in the summer of 2025?
Tomasevich: The 2025 construction year is a placeholder at this time, actual construction start dates, durations and impacts will be studied and updated as project development continues.
Sun: Will the crossing be closed completely at any time during construction?
Tomasevich: At this phase of project development it’s too early to define construction needs and impacts, but it’s fair to anticipate there will be some bridge closure needs for construction, traffic impacts will be one of many issues evaluated as project development continues.