St. Croix bridge supporters hail long-awaited approval

Allies on bridge project
Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, left, a Democrat, and Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann speak at a news conference in Stillwater Saturday March 3, 2012 to hail the passage of federal legislation that will allow a new bridge to be built over the St. Croix River, to replace the aging Stillwater lift bridge.
MPR Photo/Rupa Shenoy

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, and Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann met in Stillwater this morning to celebrate the passage of legislation that allows for a new bridge connecting the city to western Wisconsin.

Klobuchar and Bachmann, who are often on opposite sides of public policy issues, led efforts in Congress to pass legislation exempting the proposed $700 million bridge over the St. Croix River from the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Lawmakers approved the legislation this week.

Bachmann said she called Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to confirm President Obama's support for the project.

"I asked him, 'Now secretary, will the president be signing this bill?' And he said, 'Michele, I am all for the Stillwater bridge. I believe in it. The president of the United States will be signing this bill.' So we've got ourselves a bridge," said Bachmann.

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

The new span will replace the 80-year old lift bridge that connects the two states. Proponents of the new bridge say the old two-lane bridge can't handle the increased traffic, and its proximity to downtown Stillwater creates frequent traffic backups in the area.

Minnesota Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel was among the officials at the Saturday event. Sorel said his department will soon begin designing the foundations the bridge, which will span the St. Croix River just south of downtown Stillwater.

Sorel told residents he wants to involve them in the project.

"We want to come out to the community, have an open house," said Sorel. "I want to introduce you to the project management team that you're going to see over the several years and get to know those people. Get to know who they are, how they plan to interact with you."

Critics say the federal exemption weakens regulations that protect rivers.

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