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Pres. Obama backs St. Croix bridge plan

Oak Park Heights Councilmember Mary McComber and White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said last week that the St. Croix River Crossing is a top priority for President Barack Obama.

Oak Park Heights, Minn. City Councilmember Mary McComber spoke with LaHood and White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley about the St. Croix River Crossing during a briefing for city and municipal leaders held at the White House on Thursday, Oct. 27.

McComber was invited in her capacity as incoming chair of the Regional Development Committee of the National League of Cities.

In response to a question from McComber during his presentation to the group, LaHood said that President Obama and his administration are well aware of the St. Croix River Crossing and are committed to getting it done.

"Secretary LaHood said, 'I know about your project. I know what the problem is. I am committed to getting it done. The President is committed to getting it done,'" McComber stated.

The 80-year-old Stillwater Lift Bridge is a fracture-critical structure that is overburdened by traffic on a daily basis. Although it was designed to hold 11,000 cars per day, the bridge carries an average of 18,000 cars per day and has been labeled as "functionally obsolete" by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The proposed new four-lane bridge would decrease congestion, improve safety, reduce water pollution in the St. Croix River, enhance the public's use and enjoyment of the river valley, and protect historic and scenic sites along the river, according to proponents of the plan.

After LaHood spoke of his commitment to the St. Croix River Crossing, Councilmember McComber spoke directly with Daley, who reiterated LaHood and President Obama's support for the project.

Legislation that would exempt the bridge from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act has been introduced in both the House and the Senate. If passed, the legislation would allow the St. Croix River Crossing to proceed.

"Secretary LaHood and Bill Daley both said that the St. Croix River Crossing is a top priority for President Obama, and he is committed to moving the project forward," said McComber. "Having the support of the administration is crucial as we work with our elected officials in Washington to secure approval for this bridge."

The Coalition for the St. Croix River Crossing is a group of business, labor, government and community leaders from Minnesota and Wisconsin who support building a new four-lane bridge that balances community needs and benefits the entire region.