Writing for Minnpost, Steve Berg points out that most politicians seem to view the Stillwater bridge as a freeway-style-bridge versus no freeway-style-bridge proposition, even though there may be another alternative.
What might this new bridge look like?
As I wrote here on March 4, a new bridge should relieve Stillwater’s summertime traffic problems without inducing an excessive amount of sprawl development on the Wisconsin side of the river. Obviously, its design should not intrude on the historic and natural quality of the valley.
That means a so-called “low, slow” solution (PDF) — a bridge that wouldn’t span the river from bluff top to bluff top but drop down to a level more in scale with the existing Lift Bridge. Speeds (and noise) should be kept to a minimum. Engineers might consider a three-lane design that would allow east-west flexibility depending on traffic flow. The bridge should be dynamically tolled as a way to fairly shift costs to users and to help manage traffic buildup in the area.
The park service, in rejecting the freeway-style bridge, seemed almost to invite such a design while rejecting outright the freeway-style bridge that MnDOT proposed.
Note that Berg calls for “dynamic tolling” to shift the cost to users, manage traffic and assumedly reduce sprawl (not subsidize low-density development in Wisconsin). Other expert sources say a 4-lane bridge would not have enough demand to pay the tolls required to fund it, so I assume demand from a slower, narrower span would not generate enough in tolls to pay the cost. Perhaps this is why MNDOT has floated the idea of a $3 toll, which would only cover half of the construction cost (but would cover maintenance) of the bigger bridge.