Reporting Rachel Slavik
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Supporters of the St. Croix River bridge aren’t waiting for the president’s approval to start planning for the new overpass. The $700 million project to replace the aging Stillwater Lift Bridge passed Congress last week, and President Obama is expected to sign off on the measure.
The Stillwater lift bridge has served as the backdrop of the river front town for decades, but longtime resident and business owner Meg Brownson is seeing it with new eyes.
“It’s a really exciting time for Stillwater,” Brownson said.
From her Main Street business, Alfresco, Brownson watched mile-long traffic jams in the summer months from drivers stopped by the lift bridge. For years, talk of a solution went nowhere.
“My husband’s family moved here in ’62, and the bridge was going to be any day in 1962,” Brownson said.
Fast forward 50 years and any day finally came. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Sen. Amy Klobuchar led the effort to secure the bi-partisan new bridge.
“We knew if it was going to get done we had to do it now, and the window of opportunity was short,” Bachmann said.
For business owners, a new bridge means new opportunity.
“We’ll gain customers from Wisconsin that would never come across the bridge because of the traffic,” Brownson said.
The diversion of traffic away from their business is a welcome change for many.
“I’ve often wondered how much business I’ve lost throughout the years from people who don’t want to fight the traffic in Stillwater,” Brownson said.
With construction still two years away, the lift bridge will still be a major connection between Minnesota and Wisconsin.
And there’s one big change. What was once a source of frustration will become a symbol of cooperation.
“Finally politics were set aside and we got it done,” Klobuchar said.
Opponents of the bridge worry about the environmental effects. Public meetings will be held in the coming weeks to discuss the construction.