Reporting Esme Murphy
STILLWATER, Minn. (WCCO) — Congresswoman Michele Bachmann blasted Gov. Mark Dayton’s March 15 deadline for a Stillwater bridge bill on Wednesday.
Bachmann called Dayton’s deadline “crazy,” and said it puts the project in jeopardy. While the bill for a $700 million bridge just south of Stillwater sailed through the U.S. Senate, it has stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives.
A recent survey found that 86 percent of residents on both sides of the St. Croix River favor a major bridge to replace the 80-year-old Stillwater lift bridge. But a sharp disagreement over what kind of bridge and how expensive it should be continues to jeopardize the project.
Standing over Highway 36 on Wednesday, Bachmann criticized Dayton’s call for a March 15 deadline.
“It’s crazy. It’s absolutely crazy,” Bachmann said.
Congresswoman Bachmann is the bill’s sponsor. The March 15 deadline leaves her just eight days when the house is in session to get a bill passed. Republican leaders have stalled the project in the house, and Bachmann acknowledges the deadline will be very difficult to meet
“To put an artificial deadline out like March 15 is absolute madness because we can get this done. We shouldn’t kowtow to these radical environmental groups,” Bachmann said.
A spokesperson for Gov. Dayton said he imposed the deadline because advisers told him Minnesota would lose $163 million in federal transportation money if the project did not start immediately. New Congressional boundaries complicate the bridge debate. Stillwater will no longer be in the 6th District represented by Bachmann, but in the 4th District, represented by Betty McCollum, who has long opposed the mega bridge price tag.
“I do support replacing a bridge at the Stillwater/St. Croix River crossing but a $700 million mega bridge 219 feet above the St. Croix River for 18,000 car trips a day is just fiscally irresponsible,” McCollum said.
Gov. Dayton’s spokesperson stressed that Dayton, like Rep. Bachmann, supports the larger $700 million bridge project. Bachmann said even though Stillwater will no longer be in the 6th Congressional District, she will continue to fight for passage of a four-lane bridge which she said will always remain a top priority for her.