St. Croix River bridge clears hurdle

Published 9:09 am Friday, March 2, 2012

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved legislation on building a new St. Croix River bridge to connect Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The House voted 339 to 80 in favor of legislation that exempts the proposed $700 million bridge at Stillwater from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The Senate approved the legislation in January. It now heads to President Barack Obama.

The vote caps approximately 30 years of squabbles and legislative maneuvering over the span that will link the states with a four-lane highway.

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Elected officials in both Minnesota and Wisconsin were closely monitoring the vote, which had broad, bipartisan support but had also drawn objections from Rep. Betty McCollum. The DFL congresswoman stands to inherit the bridge in a newly configured congressional district and has labeled it a waste of government money. Environmental groups have objected to the project, saying it will harm the river, as have groups calling for less government spending.

But many Democrats, including Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, sponsors of the bill in the Senate, joined with Republicans to champion the bridge.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement that it represented good, bipartisan work.

“This legislation was a top federal priority for my administration and is a great example of bipartisanship teamwork that will create thousands of jobs,” Walker said. “The construction of this safer, better bridge will bring a welcome economic boost to the region.”

Thursday’s vote capped a frantic push to pass the legislation after Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton warned the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Michele Bachmann, that he would redirect state funding if a vote wasn’t held by March 15. The Senate passed the exemption unanimously in January.