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Obama Signs St. Croix River Crossing Project Authorization Act

“After thirty years of debate and delay, we finally got it done,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar says.

It's official.

President Barack Obama today signed the bill exempting the St. Croix River Crossing from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

“After thirty years of debate and delay, we finally got it done,” Sen. Amy 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.”

“Today the St. Croix River Crossing Project was given a green light to proceed,”Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said in a statement. “Finally, construction can officially begin on this common sense four-lane bridge project. I commend the President for signing this important piece of legislation."

The Coalition for the St. Croix River Crossing released a statement thanking the elected officials and community members for decades of their time and effort.

“It is a national recognition of the consensus achieved by decades of hard work by St. Croix River Valley residents,” a statement from the Coalition reads. “Thank you to all of the people who have poured years of their life into this project, studying dozens of plans, developing the best bridge for the region, and campaigning tirelessly for the future of the St. Croix River Valley. Your hard work and dedication kept this project alive in the face of unprecedented obstacles."

Now that the bill is law, MnDOT said within days RFP bids will be put out for design work.

MnDOT is the lead agency on the project and is coordinating with WisDOT and the Federal Highway Administration. MnDOT will utilize the design-bid-build approach for the project.

The construction will be broken into three projects: the Wisconsin approach, the bridge and the Minnesota approach.

“Today we celebrate an important victory,” Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) said in a statement.

“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. Not only will the new bridge address local safety and transportation concerns but it will create thousands of jobs in the short-term and foster continued economic development in a very dynamic and fast growing region."

Soil Tests Will Begin This Summer

St. Croix River Valley residents can expect to see some , MnDOT officials said Tuesday.

After announcing the project management team, MnDOT Commissioner Tom Sorel said load tests will begin this summer to verify bridge-design concepts.

Explosives will not be used, St. Croix River Crossing Project Manager Jon Chiglo said, but crews will drive steel shafts into the riverbed in the location of the piers, applying pressure to verify different designs suitable for the types of soil in the riverbed.

During the load-testing process there may be a limited impact to recreational boaters, Chiglo said. Once construction begins in 2014, boat travel may be restricted below the structure from time to time.

Along with the start of construction, there will also be an element of managing the public’s expectations for the project, Stillwater Mayor Ken Harycki said.

“The public is going to see a flurry of activity this summer with the construction of test pilings,” Harycki said. “There could be anywhere from 25-50 crew members working on the project this summer and people will see a structure coming out of the water.”

But that structure will then be pulled from the river and the load-testing equipment will be packed up.

“If they pack it up and nothing happens in 2013, the public is going to wonder what is going on, so it’s going to be important to keep people in the loop on what is going on with the plans,” Harycki said. “I think they will be working on mitigation items in 2013, so there will be some activity on the riverfront.”

A ‘Legacy’ Project

During an open house on Tuesday morning, Sorel made it clear that the St. Croix River Crossing is more than a “legacy” bridge—it’s a “community project.”

The open house, Sorel said, represents a shift in the project from the political arena to the project-delivery arena.

“This is a transition date for us,” Sorel said. “It’s something we’re very excited about.”

Sorel said the project will be under heavy scrutiny by the public, but he guaranteed that MnDOT will listen to and work with the community every step of the way.

“This project went all the way to the White House … and we will respect that scrutiny,” Sorel said. “We will build this project to be a successful project. Failure is not an option.”

The project is estimated to cost between $571 million and $676 million and once underway will take about three years to complete.

Bike and Pedestrian Trails

The bridge will be the showcase piece of the project, but the plan also includes bike and pedestrian trails and measures to protect historic, environmental and cultural aspects of the St. Croix River Valley, Sorel said.

Funding for building the Loop Trail falls under the project’s Mitigation Package, according to MnDOT. Other trail construction costs fall under other bicycle and pedestrian accommodations agreed to during the stakeholder process.

The maintenance of Loop Trail in Minnesota will be the responsibility of the city of Stillwater.

The maintenance of other trails in Minnesota is proposed to fall under MnDOT’s control, but the department has requested that the city of Oak Park Heights take over maintenance responsibilities for those trails.

Where the maintenance cost for trails in Wisconsin falls has yet to be determined by WisDOT.

Click here for more information on the Loop Trails and other Trails. Maps and other information about the trails are found about a quarter of the way down the page.

The Oak Park Heights Factor

Now that Obama has signed the St. Croix River Crossing legislation, MnDOT can move forward with design bids and riverbed testing.

But MnDOT will also have to come to an agreement with Oak Park Heights to acquire the right of way and satisfy the cost impact of utility relocation.

MnDOT officials said they are currently in talks with the city of Oak Park Heights regarding right of way, utility relocation and the cost impact to the city.

“That’s a lengthy process—and in all of our projects across the state—we have a process we follow,” Chiglo said. “We have time to work on those issues with the city of Oak Park Heights over the next 6-12 months—and I’m confident we can get that resolved.

“This whole issue is very complex and there’s a lot of legal pieces we are trying to work through,” he continued. “We will continue to work with Oak Park Heights and continue to make sure that as we build this bridge, the needs of Oak Park Heights will be met.”

Elected Officials React

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker released the following statement regarding the president's approval:

"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.

This is a great day for Wisconsin."

Bachmann's full statement reads:

“Today the St. Croix River Crossing Project was given a green light to proceed. Finally, construction can officially begin on this common sense four-lane bridge project. I commend the President for signing this important piece of legislation. I also extend my sincere gratitude to my colleagues in the Senate and the House including Senators Klobuchar (MN), Franken (MN), Johnson (WI) and Kohl (WI) and Representatives Kind (WI-03), Duffy (WI-07), Cravaack (MN-08) and Baldwin (WI-02).

“I have personally been involved with the St. Croix River Crossing project proposal for decades, including while I was a member of the Minnesota State Senate. It finally took Congressional action to allow this project to proceed because of years of frivolous lawsuits and bureaucratic holdups, but I’m pleased we could deliver. This legislation does not appropriate a dime; rather it allows a project supported by both states’ Departments of Transportation and the majority of local residents to proceed.

“I intend to continue providing updates on this project. My constituents can rest assured; they will finally have a new St. Croix River Crossing.”

Sen. Al Franken released the following statement:

“After nearly 30 years of deliberation, today we can officially say that the people of the St. Croix Valley are going to get a new bridge. This is a huge victory that wouldn’t have been possible without the leadership of so many dedicated people. My thanks to the President for signing Senator Klobuchar and Congresswoman Bachmann’s bill into law today. Today’s action will not only begin the process of building the new bridge, but also create thousands of jobs and deal with the serious traffic problems that were hurting businesses and tourism in the Stillwater area.”

Susan March 15, 2012 at 02:13 AM
No thank you! I choose to live and work on the same side of the bridge. That way I don't have to worry about traffic back-ups, floods, and bridges falling in the water.
Randy Marsh March 15, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Appreciate the full disclosure Michael. I think your mother is just excited that soon you may be moving out of the basement. You are, however, on the wrong side of this argument and are incredibly self-centered if you think it's possible to justify a $700 million bridge so your dad can save 10 minutes on his commute despite choosing to live where he does. Anything else the bloated government can do for you while we're at it. Perhaps we can repave your driveway or plant some flowers in your yard while we're at it. Just compare briefly the difference in value to Minnesota for someone who occasionally shops here and works here to those who actually live work and pay property taxes over here and then throw the funding of a $700 million bridge into that equation and see how it works out. You're not THAT important to Minnesota. Do Wisconsinites contribute something to the Minnesota side, yes, but it's not as much as you apparently want us to believe and it certainly doesn't justify a bridge of this magnitude. You should take great pride in supporting the destruction of an important environmental safeguard that could resonate across the country, not that your tunnel vision will likely enable you to see that.
Micheal Foley March 15, 2012 at 04:00 AM
Hi Randy. No, I don't live in my mom's basement in Somerset. I live in Hudson. And no, my dad no longer works in Minnesota or lives in this area. I don't think I'm being self-centered at all. I think the bridge is good for the entire region, not one person's driveway. It so sad that you Minnesota folks are so worked up about doing something that's such an obviously good thing for the Twin Cities metro area—the area in which we all live. It's time to get over the Minnesota vs. Wisconsin rivalry.
Susan March 15, 2012 at 04:01 AM
Really Randy? You and I are on the same side of this issue, but I have to say that I totally disagree with your statements here. We can agree to disagree, and we can certainly be on two different sides of an issue, without insulting someone personally. My suggestion would be to stick to the topic, and fight the urge to personally insult those who may have differing opinions....it accomplishes nothing, and only creates animosity.
Micheal Foley March 15, 2012 at 04:02 AM
Does that mean the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act should never have been a factor?
Micheal Foley March 15, 2012 at 04:08 AM
Thanks, Susan. You're totally right. I am happy that the president signed the legislation and that the bridge is closer to reality. And I can understand that some folks on the Minnesota side are less than thrilled about their share of the price tag. But, I'm still happy that the bridge will be built. I think it's good for downtown Hudson and it's good for downtown Stillwater. But, I do understand that other people don't share my views.
country boy March 15, 2012 at 04:12 AM
You people really ought to find something constructive to do. You all are so wrapped up in defeating this bridge. A little late now that the POTUS has signed the bill Jim, If you want that suspension bridge in the DEAD no.corrider, why don' t you write out a nice check covering ALL the cost for "Jims" folly.
Shawn Hogendorf March 15, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Well stated, Susan. Thank you.
Susan March 15, 2012 at 04:15 AM
Agreed. I have accepted this is a done deal, but I will debate the specifics forever. :) If it helps the "region"; well then, that's great...and that is a great argument. It really is past the point of the money argument. I can only hope that this exemption does not set a precedent for other protected rivers.
Susan March 15, 2012 at 04:24 AM
I think Jim's comment is Intriguing, but not sure if it is true, or will come to fruition. I am looking forward to more info on the subject....Jim, please give us more, if you have it...
Susan March 15, 2012 at 04:37 AM
Country Boy, do you really think you are telling us something we do not know? Sadly, the bridge has passed, and has been signed. But that will not change the fact that some believe this mega, extradose, over-priced, Taj Mahal bridge is the wrong bridge for this location. You are right, it is going to happen, but an honest, rational discussion/debate is okay, and should be tolerated.
Randy Marsh March 15, 2012 at 04:43 AM
I just wonder what Michael's reaction would be if there were plans to turn the not terribly busy street in front of his house into a 4 lane road, taking out a canopy of federally protected trees in the process, so that residents of another state could get to work faster? I don't live on Hwy. 36, but increased growth in the St. Croix Valley will not make this a better place to live. Quite the opposite, in fact. Of course his reasoning on this matter might be explained by the way his parents managed to misspell his first name.
Micheal Foley March 15, 2012 at 04:52 AM
That's a valid argument, Randy. I just disagree. And I like how my first name is spelled. It makes it a lot easier to find me in a Google search. :-)
Susanna Patterson March 15, 2012 at 12:37 PM
"Beware the Ides of March..."
kk March 15, 2012 at 03:14 PM
I not in favor of the bridge as it set a presidents to the ending of good environmental protection but being a forward thinker I also understand the real reason for the bridge. The I bridge is one of the major links between the chicago and midwest and the west coast. An i35 day on the I would be something you may not want to experience. The nearest real crossing would be la crosse. The propose roads to the bridge would much like 494 or 694. This is the UNITED States. As in a Union united we stand divided we fall.
Alex Mundy March 15, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Randy, exactly how many houses are there along Hwy. 36 that will be impacted by increased traffic? Compared to how many houses that were affected by rush hour traffic winding its way through Stillwater to get to Hwy. 36? And the last time I checked, Hwy. 36 is already four lanes and has been for a long time. You sound like one of those people who buy a house near the airport and then complain about the noise from the planes. When you live anywhere near a four-lane highway, you should expect that there will be traffic. Finally, try making an argument without taking personal shots at anyone who disagrees with you, like Micheal. It's intellectually lazy.
Susan March 15, 2012 at 03:25 PM
What? I'm not sure I understand the point you are trying to make. Are you saying that this bridge will be the main connection between the Midwest, Chicago, and the West Coast? And that the nearest major crossing is LaCrosse? Are you forgetting about I94 in Hudson...which is an interstate crossing, on an actual interstate freeway?
Jim March 15, 2012 at 05:08 PM
The Sierra club says it makes no difference if it's a lake or river. Inquiries to the Izac Walton League, Betty McColumn and President Obama are pending. Should this have been included in the Wild and Scenic Rivers act, I don't know but for the fact that if you read the Wild and Scenic Rivers act a LARGE lake is not included in the act. A small lake can be included in the act but the 7,800 acre Lake Saint Croix is not a small lake no matter how you cut it.
Jim March 15, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Susan, best to ignore Country Boy. He lives in Wisconsin and only cares about the personal benefits of the expensive, ugly, intrusive, hazardous, unneeded MnDOT bridge. There are those in Wisconsin who will benefit greatly from the new bridge and they are still hungover from the signing party. The rest of us see the folly in the proposed MnDOT bridge, Bachmann's Folly is very appropriate for nameing the new bridge.
Susan March 15, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Interesting, but wouldn't they claim that the lake is "in" the river?
Lindsey March 15, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Wow, I did not expect such negative comments from residents of MN. The present bridge is in horrible condition, much worse than the 35W bridge. It appears some "negative" comments were from people whom are forgetting about public safety (watch the History Channel story about this bridge and you will understand) and the economic impact of this bridge. It is sad to hear that MN companies and residents do not realize the true impact of sharing this access between MN and WI, at least based on comments written above. Susan...regarding the Hudson bridge...obviously that exists as well, but do you realize that bridge does not connect MN to some of the fastest growing sections of Wisconsin and that a majority of people coming from the middle & upper portions of Wisconsin access MN through this bridge? Obviously you must live elsewhere in the Twin Cities as residents of areas such as Stillwater and New Richmond are well aware of this fact. I am just thankful that none of you (negative people shown above) are running our local government or else many more lives would be lost and the local economy would be further depressed.
country boy March 15, 2012 at 11:55 PM
Lindsey, Thank you for your input. Jim = Obstructionist = stomp your feet and cry all you want. Just because you think that a bridge is not needed apparently means that other peoples' opinions do not count in your world. The bridge will move forward like it or not. You have ignored my posts concerning your take on suspension bridges..why? The truth about your conflicted views about the structural components for some bridges but not others is revealing of your true intentions. No bridge! Reality is that the bridge will be built and you can complain all you like. Your points are pretty much mute since the POTUS singed the bill. So gather all your friends and have at it. I will just kick back and watch you post your trash talk towards WI residents weighing in on this issue. We all have an opinion.. you just don't care to hear it unless it fits your fancy. No sense dealing with a person that acts like a ............ I will ignore you now!
Jim March 16, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Lindsey, how many people have been killed because of the condition of the lift bridge? Every year pedestrians and motorists are killed on highway 36 because of heavy traffic loads, many accidents involve Wisconsin drivers and Minnesota pedestrians. I can understand why Wisconsin residents want a new bridge so they can speed through Oak Park Heights, Stillwater, Grant Township, Lake Elmo, Pine Springs, Oakdale, North Saint Paul, Maplewood and into Mpls or St Paul. NONE of these Wisconsin commuters contribute anything to the communities they speed through. And MnDOT refuses to construct grade separations on 36 at all the stop lights. BTW a grade separation might cost $5,000,000, how many can be constructed for $700,000,000? Stupid question, the bridge to nowhere WILL be built, you know "country boy" wants it. Nobody knows how many vehicles will use the new bridge and how many additional vehicles will use 36, killing how many more. In typical MnDOT style they will wait for increased deaths before acting. How many boaters and ice users will die because of the new bridge pileings in the middle of Lake Saint Croix? There are many other bridges across the St Croix, St Croix Falls, Prescott, the High bridge. I'd be happy without a new bridge keeping the mentality of "country boy" where he should stay, in Wisconsin. You tired of driving across the bridge, move to Minnesota.
Susan March 16, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Lindsey, I live two blocks from Main Street, in Stillwater, and am very familiar with the issues, and problems created by the lift bridge. My I94 comment was directed at the poster above....I did not understand what he was trying to say, and thought that he was missing the I94 bridge. I am very involved in the new bridge issue, know all the talking points on both sides, and still believe this extradosed bridge is the wrong design for this location. I'm not sure if you are aware, but it is twice the height of the I94 bridges, and this four-lane design is just as wide as all 8 lanes in Hudson. It is over-sized, and over-priced, and many advocated for it, without knowing the details and/or because they were sick of the whole discussion, and just wanted a new bridge...any bridge. I am also very familiar with the western side of St. Croix County that this bridge will service, as I lived there for ten years. In my humble opinion, the population does not justify such a large and expensive bridge. I think people chose to live on one side of a failing bridge, and work on the other, and then chose to complain every time there was a problem with that bridge. Developers in western Wisconsin, and those on this side of the river have exaggerated opinions, and some facts, and pushed this thing through hoping to keep the negative details quiet, while screaming about the potential greatness for all involved. But, I also respect that your opinion is different than mine.
Randy Marsh March 16, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Lindsey, please tell me you didn't put any stock in that ridiculous show on the History Channel (If I recall, it aired right after the hard hitting show titled "Ancient Aliens", and I'm sure you headed straight for the bunker after watching that). That show and our mayor's participation in it was a total fraud, then again perhaps you get your news from The Globe or Star. You mention sharing this access, just what exactly are you sharing with us since it is your commuters clogging up downtown to drive this monstrous new bridge in the first place. Where is your concern for all of the projects in Minnesota and Wisconsin that will not be funded for several more years because of this project that serves relatively few people? Are their lives not important as well? And why exactly should Minnesotans pay for more than half of the construction cost just so St. Croix County can be the fastest developing county in Wisconsin? Since you are so blissfully aware of all those folks from the middle and upper portions of Wisconsin that use the bridge maybe you can explain the math behind spending $700 million to serve about 10,000 people per day. It almost makes a Vikings stadium look reasonable.
Carbon Bigfuut March 16, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Well said, CB.
Alex Mundy March 16, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Randy, you can drop the $700 million exaggeration now. The real cost of the river crossing is likely to come in at as little as $570 million. Why don't you turn your energies toward seeing that the $130 million difference gets steered toward all of the life-saving repair projects in Minnesota and Wisconsin that you continually bring up?
Jim March 16, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Susan, the Wild and Scenic Rivers act is very specific as to the type of waterway included in the act. The only form of lake included in the act is a "Small" lake. Is a 7,800 acre lake a small lake? The name of the act includes "River", NOT lake and is why only small lakes are included in definitions in the act. So what Congress enacted and President Obama signed into law allows a bridge to be constructed over a "Wild and Scenic River", by definition that would be North of Stillwater. South of Stillwater IS NOT a Wild and Scenic River but instead a Large Lake named Lake Saint Croix, as defined by the Minnesota DNR. Rules for constructing a bridge over a lake are much different than over a river as the water is NOT constantly refreshed and therefore more not self flushing like a lake.
Jim Bob March 16, 2012 at 05:41 PM
There is a sewage plant on the Stillwater side of the bridge. I believe it has a lagoon. Does that count as a lake?
Jim Bob March 16, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Being a tree hugger for a new bridge, I have been opposed to the legislative alerting of the W&SR Act to allow this birdge to be built. Keeping the old bridge after the new bridge is built has been the sand in the Vaseline of this issue for years. If the decision to take down the old bridge after the new bridge was built was the plan, the new bridge would have been up and running years ago. I am opposed to using my Wisconsin tax dollars to maintain the old bridge for a walking path that must be a fully operational lift bridge. However, I will embrace change and learn to live with it, since I cross the bridge twice a day to work. However, the decision to bridge a new bridge helps me in my retirement planning. I am planning to retire the day before the new bridge opens...or the day after the Sun burns out...which ever comes first.

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