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Stillwater bridge truck traffic may be banned for a month

The Stillwater Lift Bridge will likely remain closed to heavy truck traffic for the next month following a Monday afternoon mishap in which a semi-trailer carrying a boom hit a series of overhead braces and became stuck.

"For now, the bridge is open only to cars and pickups only -- no heavy commercial traffic is allowed," said Kent Barnard, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, on Tuesday. Engineers from the transportation department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were analyzing the results of an inspection of the bridge yesterday, and were additional inspections within the next week.

"The bridge will retain the current restrictions until we make repairs in about a month," he said.

Traffic in both directions across the St. Croix River was halted for nearly five hours before authorities reopened it to car and light truck traffic at 7:35 p.m.

The semi was traveling west from the Wisconsin side of the St. Croix River when the boom it was carrying struck eight horizontal steel bracings and three "portals," or steel arches, that form parts of the bridge's truss system.

"Large trucks strike portions of the bridge at least once a year, but the damage isn't usually this bad," Barnard said.

The bridge, made from steel and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, spans the St. Croix River between Stillwater and Houlton, Wis.

Although the transportation considers the bridge "fracture critical" -- meaning there are no redundancies to compensate if a portion of the bridge fails -- Barnard assured that the bridge "is not unsafe for traffic at this time."

He described the traffic restriction as a precautionary measure until the bridge can be repaired.