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UPDATE: President Obama signs bill allowing new Stillwater bridge

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind's office reported Wednesday afternoon that President Barack Obama has signed a bill that will allow a new bridge to be built over the St. Croix River south of Stillwater, Minn., and Houlton, Wis.

The White House announced the signing at 3:45 p.m., Kind staffer Leah Hunter said in a call to local newspapers.

Kind commended the president for signing the bill into law in a press release issued latere.

"Today we celebrate an important victory," said Kind. "After decades of work and the dedication of local stakeholders, agencies and private entities, we can finally get to work constructing the much needed St. Croix River Crossing Project."

Kind said the new bridge will address local safety and transportation concerns, create thousands of jobs in the short-term, and foster continued economic development in a very dynamic and fast growing region.

"I'm proud that my colleagues and I were able to come together to see this important project through. The people of the St. Croix River Valley will finally get the bridge they need and deserve," he was quoted as saying.

The bill received wide bipartisan support in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and from both Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton.

Walker also issued a statement applauding Obama for signing the bill and thanking everyone who assisted in getting the legislation made into law over the years.

"That is a very long list of people, groups and organizations," he said.

"The St. Croix River Crossing is a great example of what happens when everyone puts their differences aside, focuses on the needed end result and works together to successfully get something done. And Wisconsin is better off for it. We can now begin the process of constructing this bridge, a project that will bring thousands of jobs to our region and provide a safer route between Minnesota and Wisconsin," Walker was quoted as saying.

Wisconsin and Minnesota are sharing the cost of the project; requiring no new federal money.

According to Kind's office, the project is expected to create upwards of 6,000 new jobs in the area.

The new law exempts the planned four-lane, freeway-style bridge from the restrictions of the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Area government and business leaders have been trying for close to 30 years to gain permission for the bridge.

Construction is expected to begin in late 2013 or early 2014.