Reporting Pat Kessler
STILLWATER, Minn. (WCCO) — A 19-member Minnesota delegation is on the way back from Washington D.C., where they lobbied to replace the historic Stillwater Bridge.
The four-lane St. Croix Crossing requires federal approval to go forward, and Governor Mark Dayton said Minnesota might lose federal funding if it isn’t approved soon. Business leaders feel bypassing Stillwater with a new bridge will be good for business, and make downtown Stillwater safer.
So the mayor and other elected officials went to Washington D.C.
The oldest town in the state has a historic bridge, a picturesque main street and a lot of traffic.
“It’s really condensed,” said Shannon Cooper of Stillwater. “And it’s always busy with semis and stuff like that. Like every single one of them take out that light.”
The St. Croix Crossing would change that, extending Highway 36 over the river just south of Stillwater. Governor Dayton, Rep. Michele Bachmann and Senator Amy Klobuchar all support the $690 million plan, but you don’t have to go far to find folks who’d like a smaller bridge, like behind the counter at Country Charm Antiques.
“We need a new bridge to get the semis and big traffic,” said Bonnetta Jones. “And people commuting from Wisconsin to Minneapolis or St. Paul out of downtown.”
Resident Phyllis Petersen said she’s in favor of a less expensive bridge that doesn’t hurt the environment. When asked if she was interested in a new bridge, she said she was but wants something more economical.
“I’m interested in the new bridge,” Petersen said. “But the smaller one, the three lane bridge makes much more sense.”
“I think a lot of the businesses are for it,” said Gary Goodman, owner of St. Croix Antiquaria. “Tt will probably bring in a lot of money and a lot of activity, which is fine, but I think it’s kind of shortsighted.”
And Oak Park Heights is in the middle. The bridge will cut through the town of 4,200, and needs approval to be built, so officials want to be sure they don’t get stuck with up to $12 million in relocation costs not included in the project.
“We do have certain things,” said Councilmember Mary McComber. “We want to protect our taxpayers and residents, as well.”
Rep. Bachmann and Sen. Klobuchar have sponsored bills to allow the project, but Rep. Betty McCollum opposes it. The bills could start moving through the House and Senate by late October.