Few projects have been vetted as much or for as long as the much-needed bridge over the St. Croix River Valley near Stillwater. So it was significant Friday when the four U.S. senators representing Minnesota and Wisconsin introduced a bill to finally move the project forward.
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar is spearheading the effort in the Senate, while Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann has been shepherding the efforts in the House. Democratic Sen. Al Franken, who kept mum about his position until last week, noted that the proposed four-lane bridge was chosen "through a decades-long process."
The senators' support for the bridge is a giant step in the right direction. The fact that this project enjoys bipartisan support at a time when our country is polarized by political divisiveness is no small matter. The American public wants members of Congress to bridge differences and work together.
The current two-lane lift bridge in Stillwater is deteriorating and can't handle the traffic load. Should that bridge close, the Interstate 94 corridor couldn't handle the additional traffic, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., wrongly argues against the project, but her concerns about increased traffic on Hwy. 36 should be addressed.
MnDOT estimates that the bridge will cost $292 million (the I-35W replacement bridge cost $234 million), with an additional $340 million needed for engineering and other costs, such as preserving historical landmarks. The Minnesota Legislature has approved bonding authority to fund the bridge; a similar measure is being taken up in Wisconsin.
After decades of debate, never has the state come this close to making the bridge a reality. It's a project that deserves the full support of Congress. We hope to see that in the days ahead.
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