Obama signs bill for St. Croix bridge
MINNEAPOLIS — President Obama on Wednesday signed the bill clearing the way for construction of a new four-lane bridge spanning the St. Croix River between Minnesota and Wisconsin, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said.
"After 30 years of debate and delay, we finally got it done," Klobuchar, D-Minn., said in a statement. "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. This effort is an example of what can get done when people put politics aside and do what is best for our state."
Construction of the bridge is expected to begin in 2014 and take about three years. The project is estimated to cost between $571 million and $676 million.
As part of the project, the Stillwater Lift Bridge crossing the river will be converted into a pedestrian and bicycle bridge. Advocates of the new bridge argued that the lift bridge, built in 1931, is a source of congestion in the St. Croix Valley and safety concerns.
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., who stands to inherit the new bridge in a newly configured congressional district, has called it a waste of government money. Environmental groups argued the project will harm the river.
The U.S. House approved the bill 339-80 on March 1 to exempt the bridge under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The Senate unanimously approved the legislation in January.
Klobuchar cited bipartisan cooperation for getting the bill passed. Klobuchar drafted the legislation, which was co-sponsored in the Senate by Democrats Al Franken of Minnesota and Herb Kohl of Wisconsin and Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
Reps. Michele Bachmann and Chip Cravaack, both Minnesota Republicans, and Wisconsin's Ron Kind, a Democrat, and Sean Duffy, a Republican, co-sponsored the bill in the House.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton of Minnesota and Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin also supported the legislation.
"It was a real team effort," Klobuchar said.
Minnesota transportation officials said Tuesday that John Chiglo, the engineer who led the project to replace the Interstate 35W bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis in 2007, will manage the new St. Croix bridge project.