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Major work on new St. Croix bridge to start earlier than expected

Major work on the new bridge over the St. Croix River south of Stillwater — championed by unlikely allies Gov. Mark Dayton and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann — will get started next year, earlier than expected.

Officials had expected to get into the water to start foundation work in spring 2014, but now say it will start in late spring 2013, reports the Pioneer Press.

Testing done this summer on the river bed showed that some efficiencies could be incorporated into the project, including only five piers needed, instead of six, and the length of the drilled shafts can be reduced from 160 feet to 130 feet, the story said.

The nearly $700 million project will replace the existing lift bridge in Stillwater. It will connect with Hwy.36 in Oak Park Heights and with Hwy. 35 in Wisconsin.

Although environmentalists and taxpayer groups objected to the bridge design and cost, Dayton and Bachmann were among the elected officials to push hard to get it through Congress.

The bridge is expected to open in 2016.

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