Obama signs St. Croix Bridge bill

Bridge to never?
This undated artist rendering released by the Minnesota Department of Transportation shows an aerial view looking west that shows the proposed St. Croix River Crossing between Oak Park Heights, Minn., and St. Joseph, Wis.
AP Photo/Minnesota Department of Transportation

President Barack Obama has signed legislation authorizing a replacement for the aging Stillwater Lift Bridge.

The approval grants an exemption to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to build a new, four-lane bridge over the St. Croix River. The project is estimated to cost as much as $676 million.

Although the legislation passed both chambers of Congress by wide margins, Minnesota's delegation was divided.

DFL Representatives Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison argued that the planned replacement was too large and expensive, and set a dangerous precedent for river protection nationwide.

The bill's signing also represents a rare bipartisan achievement in a bitterly divided Congress: Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann worked closely with DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar to pass the legislation.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has already named an engineer to manage the project. The bridge will span Oak Park Heights and St. Joseph, Wis. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2014 and will take three years to complete

The bill's approval pleases Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who was one of the bill's chief sponsors.

"The president, we knew he was going to sign it, it was never in doubt," Klobuchar said.

"After 30 years of debate and delay, we finally got it done," Klobuchar said. "This is a victory for the residents and businesses along the St. Croix River Valley who have waited long enough for a safe, new bridge."

Not all are pleased, however. Environmental advocates fear the bridge will lead to sprawl in Wisconsin that could harm the river valley and water quality.

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