The four U.S. senators from Minnesota and Wisconsin have introduced legislation to move forward on a new four-lane bridge over the St. Croix River designed to ease the frequent traffic jams at the Stillwater crossing.
It was the first time that Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has endorsed the plan.
"While I don't think the proposed four-lane bridge is a perfect bridge by any means, the people of Stillwater and the St. Croix Valley need a new bridge and one that can be built without further years of delay," he said in a news release.
The bill includes the first exemption for a bridge covered by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, Franken said.
"I certainly don't want this to signal an open season on the act," he said.
Opponents of the more than $600 million plan, including U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., say the proposed bridge is too expensive and unsuited to the scenic river.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota led the effort to draft the bill, which she said was introduced Thursday night.
"From my perspective, it was important to have a bipartisan bill," Klobuchar said.
However, in a prepared statement, Kohl said, "St. Croix County has been growing faster than any other place in our state. That kind of growth necessitates investment on a similar scale."
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker support the project.
Klobuchar said the bill includes a package of mitigation efforts to protect and promote the scenic river by eliminating existing man-made structures, protecting river bluffs and ensuring public boat access.
Klobuchar said she worked closely with Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who has introduced similar bipartisan legislation in the House.
The two-lane Stillwater Lift Bridge is 80 years old, and bridge traffic often spills into downtown Stillwater, resulting in miles-long traffic tie-ups.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)