Stillwater: Iconic lift bridge hums right alongby Marc Sanchez, Minnesota Public Radio
Stillwater, Minn. — If you're in a hurry and the Stillwater Lift Bridge is raised, crossing the St. Croix River can be a real pain.
But waiting motorists should take a deep breath and enjoy the bridge in all its mechanical glory.
Built in 1931, the bridge is a literally a well-oiled machine. The bridge operates with a series of weights and pulleys that use leverage to raise its middle span.
Originally, bridge operators had to lower the weights and activate the bridge with a hand crank. Nowadays, however, the tenders use an electric motor to move the weights.
The process of lifting and lowering takes about 10 minutes. As long as there's water traffic, the bridge is set to lift at specific intervals during the day, so plan your trip accordingly (you can find a link to the lift schedule on the sidebar).
Of course, the bridge has its "ups and downs" like any old machine. A malfunction on June 11 forced operators to leave the bridge in the down position for several hours, blocking boats on the St. Croix.
Being the bridge tender is a prized job at the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Mike Byard has spent the past four summers raising and lowering the lift bridge. Listen as he describes the process.