The health care debate in the nation's capital may keep U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar from attending Wednesday's ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new St. Croix River bridge, but two governors and numerous other state, county and city officials are expected to be there.
Klobuchar, D-Minn., spearheaded legislation in the U.S. Senate to permit and fund construction of the massive four-lane bridge, as did then-U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in the House. Bachmann, a Republican, said a few weeks ago she can't attend the ceremony because of a speaking engagement in Alaska.
But Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker are slated to be on hand for the one-hour program, expected to draw hundreds of spectators. Labor unions representing construction workers also will be present.
Klobuchar said Thursday that the new bridge will mark "an important step forward for Stillwater. No more hourlong summer traffic jams. No more unexpected bridge closures. This was a multiyear legislative effort involving representatives from both houses and both parties."
The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. on the Minnesota side of the bridge, the centerpiece of a $646 million transportation project that includes new highways in both states and dozens of environmental, cultural and historical investments.
The bridge crosses the river at Oak Park Heights, about 1½ miles south of the Stillwater Lift Bridge. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) will close the old bridge to vehicle traffic after opening the new bridge, possibly late Wednesday or early Thursday.
No public parking will be allowed on or near the new bridge, which links to Hwy. 36. Shuttle buses will run from 8 to 9:30 a.m., and again after the ribbon-cutting, from three locations: the old Fury Motors lot at Hwy. 36 and Osgood Avenue in Stillwater; Stillwater Middle School at 523 Marsh St. W.; and Stillwater Area High School at 5701 Stillwater Blvd. N.
In Wisconsin, shuttle buses will load in front of Somerset High School, 645 Sunrise Dr. in Somerset, from 7:30 to 9 a.m.
Maps and shuttle information — all buses will make return trips — are available at http://www.dot.state.mn.us/stcroixcrossing/events.html.
Immediately after the ceremony, Oak Park Heights and St. Joseph, Wis., will host an ice cream social at Oak Park Crossing Park, 15125 60th St. N., Oak Park Heights.
Other events planned for Wednesday include a brief ceremony at Lowell Park in downtown Stillwater about 6 p.m. to commemorate the Lift Bridge's 86 years of service.
Once it's closed to motor vehicles, the Lift Bridge will become part of a 5-mile loop trail for pedestrians and cyclists that will be completed in the spring of 2019. The lift will continue to operate for boaters.
The "Cruisin' to Closure" classic car show will celebrate the Lift Bridge starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The event will include vintage cars representing every decade since the bridge opened in 1931.
"We don't know what time MnDOT will throw up the 'Bridge Closed' sign and do the permanent traffic shift, but we'll be downtown celebrating until they do," said Stillwater Mayor Ted Kozlowski.