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St. Croix River Crossing Bill Passes U.S. House Vote; Local Leaders Ask for Obama's Prompt Signature

"All we need to do is get the president to sign and we're on our way," says Stillwater Council Member Mike Polehna.

The St. Croix River Crossing passed through the House of Representatives this morning. The vote passed with a 339-80 vote.

The bill's passage means the legislation now needs to be signed by President Barack Obama.

In a phone interview with Rep. Michele Bachmann this afternoon, she said she "just got of the phone with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and he assured me the President of the United States would be signing the bill, which means we will have a new bridge over Stillwater."

Just this afternoon, .

On the state level, the city of Oak Park Heights has yet to sign a municipal agreement with MnDOT for the project. The two governmental bodies also have to work out the cost of utility relocation costs.

"What a wonderful day for Stillwater," Council Member Mike Polehna said. "All we need to do is get the president to sign and we're on our way. It's long overdue."

The Minnesota and Wisconsin delegates are "true champions," he said.

was packed with the usual morning crowd, but today everyone was talking about the bridge.

At least a dozen patrons of the coffee shop had their laptops open watching the vote as it happened live online. As the five-minute clock ran out, cheers filled the downtown shop.

"This is one of those where-were-you moments in Stillwater," Tim Palm of the Daily Grind said.

This is an exciting time for downtown Stillwater, but it also means a lot of change, Megan Palm said.

"Don't get me wrong I am all for it, but such a big change is scary," she said. "It's sort of a double-edged sword. You don't know what will happen. It's scary to direct traffic away from downtown Stillwater, but hopefully it will draw the locals back downtown. We'll have to see, but that's what we're hoping for."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar's bipartisan legislation was the vehicle to move the project forward. She offered the following statement:

"After 30 years of debate and delay, we finally got it done. Today 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. I appreciate the work of my colleagues in the House and Senate as well as Governor Dayton who helped get this project over the finish line."

Stillwater resident and Washington County Commissioner Gary Kriesel who supported the project gave this statement:

"This is a momentous milestone for the St. Croix Valley, with the last barrier to a new river crossing removed today with the vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, which will allow a new bridge to be built across the St. Croix River. Residents of the valley have hoped and planned and worked toward this for years, and the day has finally arrived. It will be a great gift to the communities and all of the state of Minnesota and Wisconsin to have a new crossing. 

I want to thank those who have helped make this possible, especially Rep. Michele Bachmann who has worked diligently to provide the legislative backing for this exemption, as well as her colleagues in the Senate, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, including Governors Dayton and Walker and the congressional delegation from Wisconsin. And I want to thank all the community members who believed in the project for decades, and have worked to plan and fund the bridge, while preserving the natural and historical assets of the valley. 

I see a bright future for us ahead, as we reap the economic benefits that this new river crossing will provide. In the short term, we will be able to put hundreds of construction workers back to work on the building project. But more importantly, the free flow of transportation for people, goods and services is vital to a healthy economy in the valley, and the bridge will provide that. In addition, the reduction of congestion and traffic jams in downtown Stillwater will allow those businesses to provide friendly, down-home service to valley residents who want to visit their own downtown."

Stillwater City Council Member Micky Cook, who was the lone city representative to oppose the project said the following this afternoon:

"The exemption to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is a devastating legacy to leave for future generations. 

I want to thank Representative McCollum for her valiant efforts to do the right thing, especially in the face of relentless opposition from her colleagues, except Representative Ellison who also spoke against this action. 

This has been politics at its worst - winning at any cost.  And in this case the cost is 700 million taxpayer dollars and the future of all pristine river ways throughout the entire United States of America. The tactics were brutal and should be a warning to all that apparently the 'end does justify the means' and 'it does matter if you win or lose, not how you play the game.’

On a local level it included reckless spending, with the State Auditor finding against the city of Stillwater for its use of public money to fund the Bridge Coalition. 

On the national level, procedures and laws were ignored or circumvented by making an exemption, using earmarks, putting it on Consent Agenda or a Suspension calendar.  

All in the name of winning, never finding a compromise. 

Opponents of the river crossing can be proud of their efforts to preserve the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and protect taxpayer dollars. Your motives and intentions were for the good of everyone, not just a few. 

I will continue to press for solutions to the congestion in Stillwater. MNDOT proved good on their promise to meet with me. I will pursue any and all options to creatively and effectively deal with the real problem facing Stillwater - as I promised."

Stillwater Mayor Ken Harycki and John Soderberg, co-chairs of the Coalition for the St. Croix River Crossing, issued the following joint statement:

"Today’s action by the United States House of Representatives is a huge victory for Minnesota and Wisconsin. This vote is the national recognition of decades of meetings, planning sessions, and compromise to find the right solution that benefits the entire region. Today’s vote assures that the St. Croix River Crossing will move forward.

"We are fortunate to see our region’s elected officials working together across party lines to fight for the needs of their constituents.  We are especially thankful to Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Representatives Michele Bachmann, Ron Kind, and Sean Duffy for their hard work on behalf of the St. Croix River Valley.  Governors Mark Dayton and Scott Walker have our deepest appreciation for their direct involvement with Congressional leaders.

"People in the St. Croix River Valley overwhelmingly support this project, and that support has become even more apparent in the last few days as people across the region called and e-mailed their representatives to urge them to pass this legislation.  The people have been heard by Congress.

"We are excited and energized by today’s vote, but we won’t stop working until construction workers start building."

A statement by Stillwater resident Roger Tomten released by the Sensible Stillwater Bridge Partnership in opposition to the project reads:

We all agree that the two-lane Historic Lift Bridge has outlived its usefulness and can not support the estimated 17,000 vehicles that use the bridge nearly every day. We all agree that rush hour and weekend congestion in downtown Stillwater primarily caused by vehicles crossing the Lift Bridge needs to be remedied.

But we are troubled by the reams of misinformation spread by Rep. Bachmann’s allies and parroted by members of Congress as if they were fact. The latest being that the $690 million St. Croix River Crossing is a shovel-ready project. Or that “about half” of the project cost is for environmental mitigation. Or that a defeat of this bill means no bridge will be built. Unbelievable. These wildly exaggerated claims underscore the win-at-all-costs attitude of the Boondoggle Bridge champions.

In the coming weeks, we hope the Minnesota Legislature recognizes the fiscal and environmental irresponsibility of the St. Croix River Crossing and weighs the disproportionate impact its cost will have on other urgent transportation projects throughout our state. It’s too much bridge for too much money.

We firmly believe a Stillwater Bridge replacement can be built in the next three to four years at a cost far less than $690 million, with savings going to other bridge repair projects. Let’s hope Minnesota common sense prevails.

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) released the following statement following the vote:

“This is it! After decades of bureaucratic holdups and frivolous lawsuits from radical environmentalists, the people of the St. Croix River Valley will finally have their bridge. I represent the most patient people in the nation and I could not be more thrilled about the outcome of today’s vote.

“One year ago today, I introduced St. Croix River Crossing legislation in the House and now this project has come full circle. From hearings in both chambers to debate in the House last evening, I am pleased we have a successful resolution through today’s passage.

“The St. Croix River Crossing Project is an incredible project that has incredible, bipartisan support. It is not very often that we get all four senators from Minnesota and Wisconsin, the governors from Minnesota and Wisconsin, and a diverse group of representatives on board with the same issue. I give my heartfelt thanks to the supporters of this project. I also thank House leadership for recognizing the urgency of the issue and bringing this vote to the floor.

“I now look forward to this bill receiving the President’s signature so that construction can begin on this much-needed project.”

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), an opponent of the bill, issued the following statement:

“Every policy debate has two sides and I worked hard to reflect the voices of Minnesotans in the 4th District, as well as those Stillwater and Oak Park Heights residents who are deeply concerned about this mega-bridge project.

“Congress’ passage of this $700 million bridge bill doesn’t diminish its excessive cost, size, negative effect on Highway 36 traffic congestion, or its adverse impact on the St. Croix River.

“Supporters of this legislation, including Senators Klobuchar and Franken, and Gov. Dayton, assume responsibility for protecting communities along Highway 36 from crippling traffic congestion and the families and businesses of Oak Park Heights from property tax increases – the direct consequences of the project they so strongly championed. 

“I want to thank my friend and Minnesota colleague, Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-05) for his eloquence on the floor of the House in opposition to S. 1134.  I share Congressman Ellison’s concern that replacing one bridge at a cost of $700 million to the exclusion of more than 1,100 other structurally deficient bridges in Minnesota places too many communities and motorists at risk.  I am committed to working with Rep. Ellison, Gov. Dayton and all Minnesota members of Congress and state legislators to repair or replace these substandard bridges.”

The posted the following status update on Facebook:

Today is a historic day for the entire St. Croix Valley Region. We owe a huge amount of gratitude and thanks to Governors Mark Dayton, Scott Walker, and to Senator Amy Klobuchar for all their support; and to Representatives Michele Bachmann, Ron Kind and Sean Duffy who did an outstanding job on the house floor last night; and to the St. Croix River Crossing Coalition consulting team, board members and supporters who worked tirelessly to reach today’s vote; and finally, we owe a special think you to Stillwater mayor, Ken Harycki, for his unyielding leadership over the many years that led to this historic moment. Thank you to all!!

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) issued the following statement:

“The passage of this bill means that we’ll finally be able to meet the growing transportation needs of the St. Croix River Valley and support continued economic development in the region.

“Thank you and congratulations to the local stakeholders; federal, state and local agencies; and private entities in the community that have worked so hard on this project. This bridge not only addresses the critical safety concerns of the region but also maintains the scenic and recreational value of the St. Croix Riverway. I’m proud to have supported the project for the last 16 years and am thrilled that we will be able to build the bridge that the citizens and communities need and deserve.”

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) released the following statement after voting against S.1134, the St. Croix River Crossing Project Authorization Act:

“I have consistently supported replacing the Stillwater Lift Bridge. However, the design the House of Representatives authorized today is both oversized and overpriced.Many bridges in our state need repair. Limited transportation funds should be used responsibly for projects throughout the state. For  example, the Interstate 35W Bridge, which tragically fell into the Mississippi River four years ago, cost $234 million to rebuild in its entirety and carries 140,000 vehicles daily. By contrast, the St. Croix Bridge is expected to cost $700 million and carry 18,000 vehicles a day.

“Minnesota has 1,400 neglected bridges statewide that need repair, including in the Fifth Congressional District. A right-sized St. Croix bridge would allow other communities to repair the bridges they need, creating good Minnesota jobs and preserving our state’s scenic river areas. By exempting the bridge from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, Congress is also setting a precedent that would justify building bridges over any of the country’s Wild and Scenic Rivers. I join Former Vice President Walter Mondale, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and local and national environmental organizations in opposing this bill.

“I will continue to work for smart investments in Minnesota’s roads and bridges that create good jobs for our state.”

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) issued the following statement:

“I commend my colleagues on both ends of the political spectrum for coming together to get this important bill through the House. There is much that divides us, but on this issue it was incredibly refreshing to work with Democrats and Republicans alike toward a common goal for both our region and our local economy. It’s unfortunate that this bridge required congressional action in the first place, but I’m thrilled to see that decades of work has not gone to waste.

“Rep. Kind and Rep. Baldwin both deserve immense amounts of credit for the work they put in on the Democrat side and I also must thank Senator Klobuchar for her tireless efforts in the Senate along with Senator Ron Johnson and all their colleagues who pushed for this bill to move. My colleagues on the Republican side have done so much to help, too and I thank Rep. Bachmann for her efforts to see this bill through to passage.”

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) issued the following statement:

“I’m gratified that the House of Representatives has given final approval to the St. Croix River Crossing Project Authorization Act. After having passed the Senate with unanimous support, I am very hopeful that the President will sign this important legislation into law.

“This bill authorizes no additional federal funding. The state governments will take the lead in financing this initiative. The only question at this point is whether Washington will continue to prevent the states from acting to address this longstanding problem. I’m pleased that a broad majority of both the House and the Senate agree: it is time for the federal government to get out of the way.

"This legislation would not have passed without the leadership of Senator Amy Klobuchar and the help of Senators Al Franken and Herb Kohl. I’m also gratified that so many of my Wisconsin delegation colleagues in the House, led by Congressman Sean Duffy, supported this initiative."

Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) issued the following statement:

“I commend the U.S. House of Representatives for voting in favor of the St. Croix River Project today.  After decades of work, this bill is now going to the president’s desk.  This legislation was a top federal priority for my administration and is a great example of bipartisanship teamwork that will create thousands of jobs.  The construction of this safer, better bridge will bring a welcome economic boost to the region.  I thank Congressmen Sean Duffy and Ron Kind, as well as Senators Ron Johnson and Herb Kohl, along with the many others who worked on this legislation in Wisconsin and Minnesota including Governor Mark Dayton, for their diligence and persistence in bringing this legislation across the finish line.”   

Gov. Mark Dayton (D-MN) also issued this statement to Minnesota Public Radio:

"I am delighted to see this important project move forward; this new bridge is urgently needed. The project will put thousands of people in the construction industry to work. "I am very grateful to the House Leadership for expediting the bill. Thank you to Congresswoman Bachmann, Senator Klobuchar, Governor Walker of Wisconsin Stillwater Mayor Harycki, and all of our partners on this project."

Wisconsin State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) issued the following statement:

"I am thrilled that the United States House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly to approve the legislation allowing a new St. Croix River Crossing.  The efforts of the broad, bipartisan work on this legislation among elected officials of the two states has been vindicated by the unanimous vote in the U.S. Senate and the 339-80 vote today in the U.S. House.  I commend U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann for leading the effort, as well as both states’ U.S. Senators and members of Congress that worked to advance this bill.

"If this legislation is signed into law by President Obama, Wisconsin and Minnesota can finally begin construction on this vital transportation link.  The residents of our region have waited decades to see this bridge project proceed to improve the safety of motorists, relieve traffic congestion, and ensure timely delivery of emergency services.  I am pleased that another step has been taken towards authorizing the St. Croix River Crossing and am hopeful that the President will approve this legislation quickly."

Wisconsin State Assembly Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) issued the following statement: 

"I'm delighted!  I applaud the bipartisan spirit displayed in both the U.S. Senate and the House to move this project forward.  Western Wisconsin desperately needs a modern crossing over the St. Croix River to replace the antiquated Stillwater Bridge.  No other bridge project in the history of our nation has had a more thorough review.  The construction jobs will be just a small portion of the economic benefit that will result in the creation thousands of jobs in coming years for our region.  During my time as mayor of Hudson I dealt first hand with the traffic congestion, delays, and safety issues caused by the frequent closures of this outdated bridge. Since joining the Wisconsin legislature as state Representative for St. Croix County, this project has been a top priority. I couldn't be happier for the people of the St. Croix River valley, one of Wisconsin's most economically dynamic regions."

Daryl Standafer, chair of the St. Croix County Board of Supervisors issued the following statement:

After nearly 50 years of anticipation, the citizens of the St. Croix Valley are finally able to look forward to a New River Bridge across the St. Croix River to replace the historic but obsolete lift bridge between St. Croix County Wisconsin and Washington County Minnesota.  Today, the United States House of Representatives approved the necessary Congressional exception to allow the bridge project to proceed. 

This action follows unanimous approval in January by the United States Senate.  On behalf of the citizens of St. Croix County, I express our thanks and appreciation not only to the primary author of the legislation, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, but also to her Senate colleagues, Sen. Franken, Sen.Kohl and Sen. Johnson.  We are especially grateful to the leadership demonstrated in the House of Representatives by Rep. Ron Kind, Rep. Sean Duffy and Rep. Michele Bachmann.

In addition, we are very appreciative of the continuing support from the hundreds of concerned citizens who worked on this project.  This is truly a milestone for our area, and a testament to the hard work of many people who had the vision and persistence to run the race to the end.  Together, we can accomplish great things.

Bill Rubin, executive director of the St. Croix Economic Development Corporation issued the following statement:

“The vote in the House affirms St. Croix County’s important position within the 13-county metro area. Bridge supporters have said from the beginning that the proposed river crossing was a regional transportation project for the eastern portion of the Twin Cities and west central Wisconsin. The 2003-2006 environmental streamlining process recommended the most appropriate corridor for the crossing. Even though it was arduous at times, the streamlining process and stakeholders came together and produced a solution. The U.S. Senate and House followed suit.”

Alan Burchill, mayor of the city of Hudson, issued the following statement:

"The passage of the St. Croix River Crossing bill is giant plus for the City of Hudson and western Wisconsin.  It will enable people to get to their destinations in a safe and timely manner.  It also will save our downtown from uncontrolled congestion and loss of business.  Thank you all of the people and organizations who worked to make this happen in a bipartisan manner."

Kim Heinemann, president of the issued the following statement:

"Today's action by the United States House of Representatives is a huge victory for Wisconsin and Minnesota.  This vote is the national recognition of decades of meetings, planning sessions, and compromise to find the right solution that benefits the entire region.  Today's vote assures that the St. Croix River Crossing will move forward.

"We are fortunate to see our region's elected officials working together across party lines to fight for the needs of their constituents.  We are especially thankful to Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Representatives Michele Bachmann, Ron Kind, and Sean Duffy for their hard work on behalf of the St. Croix River Valley.  Governors Mark Dayton and Scott Walker have our deepest appreciation for their direct involvement with Congressional leaders.

"People in the St. Croix River Valley overwhelmingly support this project, and that support has become even more apparent in the last few days as people across the region called and e-mailed their representatives to urge them to pass this legislation.  The people have been heard by Congress.

"We are excited and energized by today's vote, but we won't stop working until construction workers start building."

Editor's Note: This post is being updated as new reactions and statements are being gathered.

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UPDATED From 4:23 a.m.

The fate of the will be decided by a suspension vote today in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The proposed legislation granting the first-ever exemption to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act needs a two-thirds majority vote to pass.

If that happens, MnDOT has said construction for the $690 million river crossing project could start in late 2013 or early 2014.

If the legislation is defeated, the bill could still come to a full House vote next week; or it could die, and it would be back to the drawing board.

The Usual Suspects

Last night’s debate residents of the St. Croix River Valley have heard for years.

While everyone agrees the Stillwater Lift Bridge needs to be replaced, this proposal pits Representatives Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) against Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Gov. Mark Dayton, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.), as well as Gov. Scott Walker and members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation.

Bachmann urged her colleagues to support a bill that would allow the construction of “one of the longest, if not the longest, unfinished bridge projects in the history of the United States.”

“If Representative McCollum gets her way, she will kill building the bridge over the St. Croix River,” Bachmann said. And if that happens, McCollum would be acting against the wishes of 86 percent of the people that live and reside in the St. Croix River Valley, she said.

“The responsibility for the increased costs of building this bridge rests squarely on the shoulders of Representative McCollum and on her compatriots who have fought for decades to kill the building of this bridge.”

But McCollum didn’t back down from her stance that S. 1134 is a that shouldn’t be on the suspension calendar in the first place. The bill represents “” she said.

“The aging Stillwater Lift Bridge needs to be replaced – everyone agrees on that – but I support a more affordable and more appropriately-scaled replacement bridge,” McCollum said.

But she also argues that the bill is an earmark, violates the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and will result in a tax increase for the residents and business owners in Oak Park Heights.

A scaled-down bridge would allow other transportation projects across the state to move forward," McCollum said.

Ellison agreed.

“Suspension is supposed to be noncontroversial,” he said. “We’re supposed to be here passing post offices, but we’re here dealing with, what is, absolutely a controversial piece of legislation on the suspension calendar with no chance to amend.”

Ellison urged his colleagues to vote against the bill because it would “soak up resources” that other people need.

“I am incredibly sensitive to the need to fix the state’s bridges, our nation’s bridges, which is why I’m against this project,” Ellison said. “This bridge is important. I feel for the folks and want them to have their bridge. I would support a sane, sensible bridge.”

Ellison said he hopes this bill is defeated on suspension and sent back through the committee process so “some sensible amendments” may be offered up.

“This is not a good use of taxpayer money,” he said

The bridge would have cost $80 million to complete in 1992 if McCollum’s “compatriots” wouldn't have tied this bridge project up for decades in the federal courts; “in nuisance lawsuits,” Bachmann said.

“Representative McCollum is suggesting that we should be building a two or a three-lane bridge,” Bachmann said. “Why would you build a bridge that would be obsolete the day that it's opened? You would build a commonsense four-lane bridge to connect two four-lane highways.”

Wisconsin Delegates Unite

While Minnesota’s congressional delegation sparred, the Wisconsin’s representatives showed a strong, bipartisan front in support of the project.

“I have been living and breathing this issue for the last 16 years, and Mr. Speaker, it is time to build the bridge,” Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) said. “It’s unfortunate the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is being used to bludgeon a major infrastructure project that will create jobs in this region when we need them the most.”

After visiting the bridge last year and “listening to all sides of the argument,” Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) said the legislation is necessary, reasonable and time-sensitive.

Rep. Rush Holt D-New Jersey) countered that is was a “bridge gone too far.” Should Congress exempt the project from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, “it’s hard to imagine any future bridge that won’t receive a Congressional waiver like this.”

There’s very little that’s wild or scenic about the location, Kind said. That’s why the location was chosen.

Rep. Sean Duffy backed his Wisconsin counterparts while taking issue with McCollum’s claim that the river crossing is a bridge to nowhere.

“Houlton, Wisconsin may not have a stop sign,” McCollum said, “but today Congress could give it a $700 million bridge.”

If this is a project serving 380 people in Houlton, explain how 18,000 people cross that bridge every day, Duffy said.

“You are dealing with the largest growing county in Wisconsin and the 13th largest metropolitan area in the country,” Duffy said. “That’s what this bridge connects.”

The project has been talked about for decades, it is “shovel-ready,” and will create thousands of jobs, Duffy said.

“You have Vikings and Packers supporting this bill. This is a remarkable day,” he said. “We can’t find bipartisan support in the 15 months I’ve been here, but its here tonight on the House floor. This is a great bill. It gets the job done.” 

‘Get it Done’

When asked how he was feeling the day before the project comes to a House vote, Stillwater Council Member Mike Polehna said he’s optimistic, and will be relieved one way or the other to have resolve.

“This has been debated for 60 years. Sixty years,” Polehna said. “Get it done already. This is a divisive issue in Stillwater and people are tired of it. Get it done, and let’s move on.”

Council Member Doug Menikheim said he’s an optimist; and he believes this project will move forward after all these years.

“We’ve done as much as we could,” he said. “We’ve worked hard and I will be comfortable with whatever the outcome might be

Mayor Ken Harycki said he's excited.

The governor’s deadline really got the ball rolling, he said. Bachmann and Klobuchar are “burning the midnight oil” and the laborers have really “been coming through for us” down the stretch.

This is a full-court press, Harycki said. Everyone is working really hard.

“This is what the people of Stillwater want,” Harycki said. “But they have bridge fatigue. They just want to get it done.

“I can’t wait for the vote to come out.”

joe March 05, 2012 at 07:26 PM
I'm saying that staunch environmentalists, some being members of the Sierra Club, base their environmental efforts on quasi-religious convictions. Those are not based on one of the conventional "religions" that worship Christ, allah or Zeus, but are instead a worship of the earth as the deity placing the earth's needs ahead of human need. As I said, I'm in favor of a healthy respect for the earth and environment. But I don't put those ahead of human interests the way a quasi-religious environmentalist does. By the way, they did fight "so strongly against ANY bridge." Their false support for the "sensible" alternative was baloney. They would have agreed to debate that alternative to prolong the delay and simultaneously looked for any way to eventually file a lawsuit against it or take away their support to add more delay. Also, I'm not aware of NPS or MNDOT being responsible for delay similar to the Sierra club. Both NPS and MNDOT are necessary participants and have not filed lawsuits to cause delay. The Sierra Club has injected itself into the project to cause delay and prevent the bridge by litigation.
Ja Stoddart March 05, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Have you missed the irony that it is the supporters of this mega bridge that operate on "faith"? The only facts or reason come from the people who think this is overkill. The downtown biz owners have faith this will help them, and that the biz on 36 will do better. Still Oak Park has opposed this partly because the mitigation will bulldoze the small business along 36 leaving only the corp giants left. Fact and reason do not support a mega bridge, it is only by faith that it's supporters do.
joe March 05, 2012 at 07:43 PM
It's ironic that ja proclaims facts and reason come only from people who think the bridge is "overkill," and then she or he provides not a single supportive fact. I didn't miss that irony. On what facts is it overkill to build a bridge sized to service traffic needs for many decades into the future? 100 senators, well over 2/3 of US representatives, and both MN and WI Governors support the bill. Maybe not ironic but perhaps indicative of certain facts and reasoning.
Susan March 05, 2012 at 07:47 PM
You are missing my point. Why doesn't The Sierra Club fight every (or any) bridge anywhere if what you say is true, and they pick projects based on their love of Mother Earth? This bridge costs so much because of delays, as a result of the violation of the WSRA, period. The NPS told MNDOT no to this design in 1996...and here we are, almost sixteen years later....MNDOT never tried to come up with an alternative, and the NPS, although they tried, was not able to prove that this bridge did not violate the WSRA. Why aren't you railing against The Act itself? There is so much blame to go around, that trash-talking one group shows your bias.
Ja Stoddart March 05, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Come on Joe are you saying it isn't a fact that the plan calls for eliminating business along the frontage roads? By you logic a 15 lane bridge wouldn't be overkill cuz it will carry all the cars it needs to. Just because a bunch of politicians voted for it, doesn't mean they followed facts and reasoning. I guess you could claim that if you believe that every thing politicians do is right. It would be a stretch to believe that.
joe March 05, 2012 at 08:10 PM
I'll admit my bias. I'm biased against groups that prevent economic progress by filing lawsuits in the name of environmentalism. I'm not in favor of the Act either. It's a terrible law, especially when it's used to prevent economic progress, which was not it's original purpose. It's more generally a bad law because it's another example of Washington DC arrogantly micro-managing state affairs. Why doesn't the Sierra Club fight every bridge anywhere? Probably because it has limited resources and because this particular bridge came with an easy opening to a lawsuit, the WSRA. If all bridges were under the WSRA they may well fight all bridges, to the extent that they could afford to do so. Look again at the cost accountings in recent newspaper (online) articles. It doesn't seem to me that this bridge project, with all of its appurtenant non-bridge-span requirements, has an excessive cost. It's a high cost but it appears to me to be in line with the scope of the total project. Based on that, can't see how opponents can genuinely base their opposition on the cost. I'm sure MNDOT shares part of the blame too. I don't know why it did not find an alternative. My guess is that even if it had, the Sierra Club would have filed its lawsuit, so maybe MNDOT thought its plan was the right one. At one time it was approved.
joe March 05, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Which business? 15 lanes would be overkill and would not have received 100 senate votes and 2/3 of representatives. No not all of what politicians do is right but in this case the voting indicates that a 4 lane bridge is not overkill.
Susan March 05, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Didn't the WSRA need a majority in Congress to pass? Didnt those Congressmen and women have good reasoning and judgement?
Ja Stoddart March 05, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Look at the plans from about Napa to Carbones and look where the frontage road ends up.
joe March 05, 2012 at 08:42 PM
No they didn't have good judgement at the time. It's a bad law. Look at the result. It took decades to build a bridge that will now cost multiples of what it could have cost, not to mention the lost opportunity cost of delayed economic growth. The law is an intrusion by arrogant Washington DC politicians into state affairs. There's no reason bureaucrats 2000 miles away from Stillwater should have ever been granted any influence over the building of this bridge. Why would they know better we do whether we should have a bridge? And just to avoid your next question, which will be about the use of federal money to build the bridge, we should use any federal money to build the bridge. It should be a state-funded project based on the state's design and choice of building or not building a bridge. Keep the feds in DC and out of Stillwater.
joe March 05, 2012 at 08:56 PM
I found articles that say the businesses on the south side of 36 will have reduced access? Is this what you meant by: the "plan calls for eliminating business along the frontage roads"? If you are saying that business will be "eliminated" by the plans, give a link. I couldn't find any information that a frontage road will go into the space of any of the adjacent businesses.
Susan March 05, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Actually, my next question was going to be, why is this Congress majority good, yet the WSRA majority vote bad? But you already answered it...because of your personal political beliefs. My question now ( and neither of us has the answer), is why didnt MNDOT take WSRA into consideration when designing this bridge, or at a minimum, start working on the process of getting support, to get this thing an exemption decades ago? My point in all of this, is that it is not just The Sierra Club's fault (and therefore "radical environmentalists"), this bridge has been delayed for decades, and is so costly!
D. Knutson March 05, 2012 at 09:06 PM
The WSRA was not enacted to prevent bridges from being built, it was established so there was a process to go through, and so that it took congressional approval for a bridge to be built.  Fact is that it wasn't a bridge prevention bill, nor a law to prevent anything like economic growth, it was just to establish the process to go through for approval.  This was established after the NSP plant was built to control, but not limit what was built, and require congressional approval for projects along the river like the bridge just received.   There were a couple pretty good size bridges in Hudson that were built after the WRSA was pushed through by Mondale back in the 60's.  Those bridges are a lot bigger than the proposed one in Stillwater but the whack jobs didn't fight them because they knew it would be a waste of time and money, so they picked fights elsewhere in the world. Why didn't they take the WRSA into account? They did as much as they could, but the bottom line is the whack jobs were fighting the bridge in general, so there wasn't anyone to discuss the matter with until after the design and court rulings. It was only then that the whack jobs wanted a kinder gentler bridge design...
Susan March 05, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Ignoring all the childish name-calling, let's move back to why didn't anyone, (MNDOT, NPS, the state of Minnesota, the state of Wisconsin, etc.) think to get an exemption decades ago? That would have hindered the lawsuits, if not completely avoided them. There was no reason to wait...get an exemption, and it's a done deal, right? The I94 bridges were basically built in the same footprint, which is why there was nothing to fight.
joe March 05, 2012 at 09:26 PM
I don't know what MNDOT did or why, but I know they did not file a lawsuit as did the Sierra Club. Could MNDOT in the past have designed a bridge that would have "complied" with the Act, and that would have avoided a Sierra Club lawsuit? I'm skeptical of that. Would it have been two lanes wide and bluff-to-bluff (to avoid erosion)? If so maybe MNDOT didn't think that such a "compliant" bridge would also be sufficient for future traffic needs. Maybe they didn't want to waste money on a two-lane bridge that would be outdated. Or maybe they thought that whatever the proposed design the Sierra Club would have filed a lawsuit in any event (that's my suspicion). I don't mind blaming MNDOT if they could have done things better. I wish they had thought of getting an exemption earlier, but maybe that was a very insightful idea that they just didn't identify. I do know that the Sierra Club lawsuit did in fact intentionally delay the construction by years or decades, and did add tens or hundreds of millions to the cost.
Susan March 05, 2012 at 09:35 PM
I guess what I am asking, or saying, is that if some agency, or municipality had thought to get an exemption early on, would the lawsuits have happened at all, or if they did, they possibly could have been thrown out, because there was already an exemption. It is my understanding, that a bridge (to avoid an exemption), has to have the same footprint, so why wasn't an exemption part of the early process? I don't know, I guess I am asking too much of our leaders and/or government agencies to apply some common sense when needed. And as for the earlier "whining" comments. If this thing gets signed, OPH gets their funding, and Stillwater stops spending like they have unlimited funds, why should anyone whine any longer?
Zaba Zoom March 05, 2012 at 09:39 PM
"Those bridges are a lot bigger than the proposed one in Stillwater" Again facts don't find that a true statement. The I94 bridges are 80' and 68' wide, while the monster bridge is 106'-7" wide center of tower to center of tower. The I94 bridges are 68' above the water line, while the monster is 111' to the road deck and with the towers it ends up 219'. Maybe I'm just wacked but that doesn't sound like the I94 bridges are so much bigger.
joe March 05, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Yes I wish that someone would have thought of the exemption 20 years ago if that would have helped. Hindsight is 20-20.
William Pappas March 06, 2012 at 01:02 AM
What has happened to this discussion?
Susan March 06, 2012 at 01:07 AM
What do you mean? People are sharing ideas, discussing different issues involving the bridge, and debating differences of opinion. Isn't that what this forum is for?
William Pappas March 06, 2012 at 01:23 AM
Country Boy, I don't follow your logic. More bridges in worse shape than the Stillwater Bridge will now have to wait for replacement because of the obscene cost of this St. Croix Crossing. More people have been put at risk due to the fiscal irresponsibility of this infrastructure hog.
William Pappas March 06, 2012 at 01:36 AM
D Knutson, never before have so many people ponied up for a project that they have absolutely no interest in or will derive zero benefit. All over American Wisconsin and Minnesota, taxpayers will be paying for the most expensive bridge in Minnesota history by a factor of nearly 3 and all they will get for it is a bigger tax bill. And by the way, Bob, my company will most likely end up building something across the river. The fact that I know this and still opposed it, choosing instead fiscal responsibility and environmental protection rather than self enrichment and development growth at any cost to taxpayers indicates I applied a small amount of principal to this issue.
D. Knutson March 06, 2012 at 01:54 AM
William, you said "never before have so many people ponied up for a project that they have absolutely no interest in or will derive zero benefit," so apparently you have not heard of the light rail transit system in Minneapolis & St Paul that are large trains to nowhere at the tune of $1.75 Billion, and although the 11.9 mile segment on Hwy 55 has yet to cover operating costs they are building it bigger, so as taxpayers we can lose more money over a longer period of time. The reason the trains went away years ago is that most people around here prefer to drive, so maybe that $1.75 billion could be used on more bridges and roads....
Randy Marsh March 06, 2012 at 02:05 AM
So from your perspective, the government has wasted money on light rail, which you view as a misuse of tax dollars, so MnDOT and other massive bridge supporters don't need to feel bad about throwing away more hundreds of millions of dollars. My 6-year-old has tried that argument and it doesn't fly in our household either.
D. Knutson March 06, 2012 at 02:21 AM
No Randy, that's you and your 6-year-old thought process, twist it as much as you can. Let me point out what the response was towards because you can't follow along.. "never before have so many people ponied up for a project that they have absolutely no interest in or will derive zero benefit." So in remedial fashion I'll explain, most people don't have any interest or derive any benefit from the light rail, but we have to pay taxes on it, and it's excessive in my book. Would I want a bridge at a lesser cost, of course. I'd also want it built in 1992 before the enviro-whacko's stopped it with their frivolous lawsuits... I'd also like the world with a fence around it too in order to keep the nuts out. Following along to this point, or do we need to do some more explaining? Just wondering.....
Susan March 06, 2012 at 02:26 AM
OR, built in 1992 if MNDOT (or someone else benefiting from this bridge), had pulled their head out of their backside, and worked to get the exemption before the lawsuits became an issue.
Zaba Zoom March 06, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Guess we know what side of the fence the Dicks are on, or do you need me to explain it?
Randy Marsh March 06, 2012 at 03:43 AM
So, DK, you are grouping yourself with supporters of light rail. That I can understand. You don't like paying for light rail that you will never use and yet are insisting that 99.9 percent of Minnesotans are stuck paying for a obscenely priced bridge that will be used by a tiny percentage of those who are footing the bill. How are you any different than light rail supporters? Maybe I will ask my youngster to explain it to me.
William Pappas March 06, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Susan, MNDOT started looking for cover for this bridge decades ago. They knew they were designing the most objectionable bridge that could possibly be fit in the Valley under the WSRA. The criteria they came up with for any bridge insured a freeway, incompatible structure that needed lots of propoganda, misinformation and tons of political cover just to get it off the drawing board. This process culminated in the Stakeholders meetings that offered the most cover by showing local support for these behemouth crossings. Anyone who cares to be objective knows the stakeholders process was a sham cover and never allowed any change in criteria to allow more conforming structures to be considered. It is a sad history of outdated design that never fit the smaller needs of the St. Croix Valley. One very unfortunate tactic is that MNDOT never offered to partner with Interior to come up with a design that could be negotiated to fall in the same footprint. Right up to the last vote Interior was willing to accept smaller bridges to the south landing near the Wisconsin location of the current bridge as compliant. MNDOT wins this battle by convincing politicians that any other bridge will take decades for approval and not meet any of their unrealistic and outdated huge projections for growth as well as denying any other smaller span could possibly be compliant. All of it great misinformation promoted by Stillwater taxpayer supported bridge lobbyists.
Susan March 06, 2012 at 01:26 PM
William, I agree with you. If you look back through the comments above, you will see that I blame MNDOT (and possibly some others), for the great delays, causing the huge price tag. I am trying to get others to see that this huge price tag is not because of the Sierra Club's lawsuits, but because MNDOT did not comply with the WSRA, nor did they try to get the obviously needed exemption. As I have said over, and over, MNDOT and their lack of judgement is to blame here, and yet, even with that obvious lack of judgement, sadly so many are trusting them when they say that this 20 story, super-sized bridge is the only feasible design for this location. I hate to say it, but it looks like we may be stuck with this monstrosity, so arguing big bridge vs. small bridge won't help anymore.

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