STILLWATER, Minn. (WCCO) -- Officials on the state line are seeing some unusual traffic patterns. People are using the brand new St. Croix Crossing, but in a different way than planned.
The bridge became a reality one week ago on Wednesday. The bridge unites Oak Park Heights near Stillwater with St. Joseph, Wis. It replaces the small Stillwater Lift Bridge, built in 1931. The hope was it would alleviate traffic in the area and provide jobs. It took four years to build.
A $600 million project, it opened to a hero's welcome on Aug. 2, 2017. A week later, the interstate thoroughfare is still the talk of the towns.
Lennart Andersson has worked in downtown Stillwater for 10 years.
"It's large, fantastic," he said.
Infamous for its traffic back-ups, Stillwater merchants are seeing immediate results.
"Less traffic and a lot more people can find parking," Andersson said.
But at Stillwater Antiques, there's actually been more foot traffic. Now that their reputation for congestion is fading, Andersson explains, "I think we're going to get more people from around here, not just tourists. But it's going to be people from Stillwater, Bayport, Minneapolis-St. Paul."
As for the traffic flow on the new bridge, Thomas Spaniol, Jr. is town chairman of St. Joseph, Wis., where the bridge connects.
"No traffic problems, smooth sailing, so that's a good thing," Spaniol, Jr. said.
But what's not exactly a great thing is what's happening on the landing of the Wisconsin side.
"Most of the feedback we've gotten is 'Man there's a lot of people just driving around the roundabouts, crossing the bridge,'" Spaniol, Jr. said.
MnDOT officials say last week, 1,300 to 1,600 cars an hour were cruising the bridge and turning right around. Some frustrated locals are calling them "loopers."
After so many years of build-up, it seems the St. Croix Crossing just something you have to see to believe. This bridge is going to be huge for commuters - 65 percent of the people in St. Joseph Wis., work in Minnesota.
If you haven't seen the bridge for yourself yet, a word of warning: GPS on iPhones does not detect the bridge, they'll try to send you the old way. MnDOT officials say they've contacted Apple and are trying to work out the kink.
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