New Stillwater bridge heading for a U.S. House vote Thursday

Stillwater Liftbridge
Vehicles travel across the Stillwater Lift Bridge on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012.
MPR Photo/Tom Weber

The U.S. House is expected to debate Wednesday and vote Thursday on legislation to allow a new $700 million, freeway-style bridge across the St. Croix River.

Both the bill's sponsor, Republican Michele Bachmann, and its biggest opponent, Democrat Betty McCollum, are part of a lobbying effort to sway the final outcome.

Opponents, including McCollum say the new span is fiscally irresponsible. There's a group called the Sensible Bridge Coalition that thinks there should be a three-lane bridge that runs from the Wisconsin side of where the current Stillwater Lift Bridge terminates and cut diagonally across the river to a point on the south end of downtown Stillwater. So the current Lift Bridge and the new bridge would form a number seven shape if you're looking down from space.

Stillwater mayor Ken Harycki is a vocal supporter of the four-lane bridge that would be downriver from downtown Stillwater. That's the bridge that's up for a vote Thursday.

This vote could potentially be the end of decades of debate over what to do about the aging Stillwater Lift Bridge.

"I feel we're in the final 48 hours of a 60-year-long race to get this bridge built," Harycki said. "I definitely feel that we're there."

If the vote is a yes Thursday, Harycki said construction would begin June of 2013 and would last for three to four years. Its construction could employ 2,000 people.

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