STILLWATER -- Washington County commissioners reaffirmed their support for the construction of a long-delayed new St. Croix River bridge in Stillwater.
Legal and legislative wrangling has halted plans for a new river crossing between busy downtown Stillwater and Houlton, Wis. A new span would replace the historic Stillwater Lift Bridge.
A new bridge is needed to ease traffic gridlock in the area of the bridge, county officials assert, and to spur economic growth in the Stillwater area.
County Board members on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution declaring support for construction of a new bridge.
"It is astounding" that a new crossing hasn't yet been built, said board Chairman Gary Kriesel, who represents Stillwater on the County Board. "There's nothing we are going to say up here that hasn't been said multiple times over the last few decades. We have bridge fatigue up here."
The longer the project is delayed the more construction of a new crossing will cost, Commissioner Dennis Hegberg said.
Meanwhile, in Washington D.C. Tuesday morning, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann introduced legislation co-sponsored by freshman Wisconsin Congressman Sean Duffy, to approve construction of the proposed, four-lane St. Croix Bridge between Minnesota and Wisconsin.
"For decades a new river crossing has been needed, but the project continues to be stalled due to outlandish lawsuits and bureaucratic delays. Most recently, in October 2010, the National Park Service reversed their support of the project, effectively blocking all construction of the bridge.
"My bill references the first decision by the National Park Service that favored the bridge project and deemed it consistent with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act."
"I urge my colleagues to support this bill so that the citizens of Minnesota and Wisconsin can safely cross the St. Croix River. These citizens count on their elected officials to recognize the need for infrastructure and my bill responds to their pleas for a new crossing. I look forward to the groundbreaking of the new bridge, and the jobs and positive economic impact it will bring to the region."
"This is a commonsense piece of legislation that simply clears the path for the St. Croix River Crossing Bridge to be updated in a way that will not only increase safety for commuters, but will ease traffic congestion," Duffy said. "This is a plan that has broad support between legislators in both Minnesota and Wisconsin and is widely agreed upon as critical."