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Cottage Grove mine gets piece of St. Croix bridge project

Excavating activities at the Nelson Mine on Lower Grey Cloud Island soon will get a big boost when more than 65 workers begin up to two years of production on concrete casts for the new St. Croix River bridge.

Aggregate Industries, longtime operator of the Nelson Mine, received an interim conditional use permit to construct a metal building, concrete casting storage yard, three cement silos and a temporary ready-mix plant on about 25 acres of land north of the mine.

The company is finalizing a contract with St. Croix River bridge contractor Lunda/Ames to built approximately 650 concrete bridge spans at the temporary plant on Grey Cloud Island. Sand and gravel from the Nelson Mine will be used to construct the castings.

“This is history in the making,” Cottage Grove City Engineer Jennifer Levitt said at a recent City Council workshop, adding her excitement that Cottage Grove will have a hand in creating the engineering feat.

The council signed off on the permit Feb. 5. It’s good for up to two years and includes a number of conditions. Aggregate Industries objected to a requirement that the company pay the city to help cover the cost of future repairs to roads that will be used by semi-trucks hauling cement and steel materials to the site.

The city is imposing a $91,500 charge on Aggregate Industries for damage the city is projecting to occur to the roadways used by the company’s trucks, Cottage Grove City Administrator Ryan Schroeder said.

The bridge span construction is not activity that usually takes place at the mine and is not a permitted use, which was why Aggregate Industries needed the interim conditional use permit.

City officials said since Aggregate Industries will not pay any more in property taxes as a result of the non-permitted use, it is being charged to help pay for future road work.

“Our streets are going to take a beating,” Mayor Myron Bailey said.

Cottage Grove Senior Planner John McCool said there will be 80 to 100 semi-truck trips to and from Aggregate Industries during a 30-day site preparation period. After that, officials expect about 10 truck trips daily during the bridge span work. The truck route will include Highway 61, Jamaica Avenue, 100th Street, Hadley Avenue, 103rd Street and Grey Cloud Trail.

Levitt said the city used a federal study to determine the $91,500 fee. The city estimates that it will cost $2.5 million to repair the affected roads in the future.

Aggregate Industries opposes the fee, said company representative Bob Bierangel. The company’s property taxes should be adequate payment, he said.

City Attorney Kori Land said other cities have imposed similar charges for a temporary use that does not generate additional property tax revenue.

Inside the 100-by-600 metal building, Aggregate Industries will pour concrete castings in a batch control room until they are properly cured. The finished casts will then be stored in an outdoor storage yard before they are loaded onto a barge and shipped downstream via the Mississippi River. The bridge components will then be barged up the St. Croix River.

Construction of bridge castings is expected to begin in May and last through the 2015 construction season. Shipping of the finished casts won’t begin until the third quarter of this year, said Dale Evan, project manager for Lunda/Ames.

The existing St. Croix River bridge, also known as the Stillwater Lift Bridge, links downtown Stillwater with western Wisconsin. The bridge is 80 years old and structurally impaired. Its current two-lane design facilitates roughly 18,000 vehicles daily between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The new bridge is being built roughly two miles downriver in Oak Park Heights and will use Highway 36 as the thoroughfare linking Minnesota with St. Joseph, Wis.

Minnesota Department of Transportation officials called the bridge a hybrid design that will have minimal impact on the surrounding environment. It will be a four-lane, three-mile span.

Latest figures put the shared-cost project in the $580 to $680 million range, with Minnesota picking up as much as $390 million.