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New Stillwater, Minn., bridge awaits congressional action

ST. PAUL -- A new bridge over the St. Croix River between Minnesota and Wisconsin awaits votes by the full U.S. House and Senate.

The final committee hurdle came this morning when the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the bridge with bipartisan support. The final House committee already has given the plan its blessing.

"This is an important step in advancing this critical project so that residents and businesses in Stillwater and the St. Croix River Valley can finally have a safe, more efficient alternative to the 80-year-old lift bridge," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. "I will continue to work closely with my colleagues in the Senate and House to move this legislation forward in a timely manner."

The new bridge, which could cost up to $690 million, has been controversial for years. Environmentalists have delayed building a new one because the St. Croix River is protected by federal legislation. Congress must approve a waiver from that law to allow a bridge to be built.

The existing bridge, which lifts for boats to pass, has numerous problems, among which is its two-lane limit that can produce long backups on both sides of the river. Thousands of Wisconsin residents use the bridge to commute to and from their Minnesota jobs.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.