WASHINGTON (AP) — Capping decades of squabbling and legislative maneuvering, the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved legislation that will allow a new St. Croix River bridge to be built connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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

“I’m thrilled,” said Rep. Michele Bachmann, the bill’s sponsor in the House. “This is long overdue and this bridge is commonsense.”

Elected officials in Minnesota and Wisconsin were closely monitoring the vote, which had broad, bipartisan support but also drew objections from a loose contingent of Democrats, fiscal hawks and environmental groups.

Rep. Betty McCollum, the DFL congresswoman who stands to inherit the bridge in a newly configured congressional district, has labeled it a waste of government money. Environmental groups have objected to the project, saying it will harm the river.

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, originally written by former Sen. and Vice President Walter Mondale, was a landmark piece of environmental legislation designed to protect rivers. It requires congressional approval of certain types of construction around rivers.

Many Democrats, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the bill’s Senate sponsor, joined with Republicans to champion the bridge. Others supporting the measure included Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken, a co-sponsor of Klobuchar’s bill.

“Today is a victory for the residents and business along the St. Croix River Valley,” Klobuchar said. “When it’s for the good of your state, you put partisan differences aside.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also praised the efforts of both parties to pass the bill.

“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.”

Advocates of the bridge have said it is long overdue and will ease congestion in the St. Croix Valley while creating jobs and helping interstate commerce. They also say there are safety concerns: The Stillwater Bridge currently connecting the two is a lift-bridge built in 1931.

Opponents, led by McCollum, argue the bridge is too big, is a waste of government money and could harm the environment.

“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,” McCollum said in a statement on Thursday.

Others opposing the project included Rep. Keith Ellison, who said he understood the need to build an improved bridge but couldn’t support a project this large, and Mondale who wrote lawmakers to say he worried about the effect it would have on the St. Croix and the precedent granting an exemption would set.

Environmental groups also bashed Thursday’s vote.

“This bill sets a dangerous precedent for over 200 Wild and Scenic Rivers across the nation — to push through the most expensive bridge in state history,” said Margaret Levin, State Director of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter.

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

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (22)
  1. Greg Looseanus says:

    I could do a triple spike off that bridge, sweet.

  2. aronamis says:

    About time , this should ease congestion in Stillwater, and the Taylor Falls area to . I will go back and visit the Stillwater area now traffic is always a big pain in the butt to get there now !!

  3. Harleymanmn says:

    To Betty McCollum: Government waste is building an undersized bridge meandering kitty corner across the St.Croix that has to be added on to in a few years under traffic and with infllated construction dollars. To build it straight across the river and sized to accomodate growth is the result of foresight and takes advantage of the pricing available now in a depressed construction market. Get on board!

  4. Rube says:

    “Prior to the vote, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton warned Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann that he would direct state funding for the bridge elsewhere if it’s not taken up by March 15.”
    If he is going to “warn” anyone about getting this passed, it should have been Betty McCollum.
    It also makes me wonder, who is he to “Warn” anyone?

  5. Don Strei says:

    So, we will be paying for another way over the St Croix that is a few miles upstream from the I-35 highway bridge, and an expensive one at that. Some activities look far into the future, like the Hoover Dam during the Great depression, Let’s hope this one turns out to be as successful.

    1. Obadiah says:

      The I-35 bridge does not cross the St. Croix. It crosses the Mississipi and so has nothing to do with it.

      1. Spin Doctor says:

        you know and I know what he meant there homeboy
        or do you still think it is 49?
        a 6th District dummy? yep uh-huh

        1. wayne says:

          Spin doctor,

          What crack pipe are you hitting on today? No we don’t know what Don S. had in mind. That is why you have to point out the obvious because of people like you. What is 49? The only dummy here is you.

          1. BK TRUSTEE says:

            golly – no creativity in your little mind now is there.

            I wonder what bridge crosses in area besides Styillwaters. Lets see – 94. But if one is confused and backwards which I believe to be what was meant (duh) then its 49. Holy Crack Pipe – wayne is dumber than a skunk in heat

  6. jackactionzero says:

    We need a bridge – badly.
    We didn’t need a bridge that costs twice what it needs to. Kuddo’s to all the fiscal conservatives out there. LMFAO
    Hey Greece — we right off your right bumper right now……..here we fricken come baby

    1. Brett says:

      It wouldn’t have cost twice as much if the stupid Sierra Club had kept their stupid mouths shut for the past 10 years, holding up the project. They should be sued under the RICO Act for the cost overruns.

      1. Linda says:

        Why can’t a bridge be built that doesn’t violate The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act? The proposed bridge looks like the behemoths that straddle the Missisippi River near downtown Minneapolis. This type of bridge does not belong in Stillwater. The cost is also way out of line. This whole deal smacks of pork and smells equally bad! Shame on the politicians who are pushing this monster bridge on one of the most beautiful areas of our state.

  7. Dave says:

    Finally. The Environazis have been standing in the way of this progress for so many years that the costs have probably doubled. If you want to blame anyone for the high cost of the bridge, blame them.
    Stillwater will benefit by cutting down traffic through the city and make it more user friendly as a tourist spot.

    1. BK TRUSTEE says:

      There remained a bridge bid on the table for $327M less.
      No – not as pretty. Not lobbied for by Bachmann of course, the true fiscal conservative

      btw – the TP thinks she’s a kook on this one too. 🙂

      Soon I get to start running my meter too. Flee Minnesota folks if you have any sense. Avtually – move on this side of the Bridge to Nowhere. You paying for our part too.
      Love ya all….. xxxooo

  8. BK TRUSTEE says:

    I am ELATED today. Totally thrilled !
    We have succeeded once again in showing our total lack of any FISCAL responsibility in overspending by hunders of millions of dollars not once but TWICE in a single day.
    All you Minnesota politicians – stand up and take a bow.

    A Bridge to Nowhere. The Purple Boys Stadium. Wow
    I am so dang impressed and proud of what you lobby for and accomplish I want to kiss your rear ends.

    1. Tom says:

      the bridge we want, the stadium we don’t. send the vikings packing

  9. Tom says:

    Rep. Betty McCollum, the DFL congresswoman who stands to inherit the bridge in a newly configured congressional district, has labeled it a waste of government money.

    Is there government spending that isn’t?

    1. Jeff says:

      Best comment by far. Thanks Tom.

  10. bringyourbusinessonover says:

    Just remember Wisconsin is still open for business. All those corporations being taxed out of the blue state of MN come over on that new bridge!

  11. Brett says:

    Even amy, al, and marky were behind the *4 LANE BRIDGE*. Betty is a complete LOON, it’s time that most citizens recognize that, and vote her OUT this November.

  12. KEVIN says:

    wcco are you charter member of the Sierra club. You must be if your sensoring people like myself that don’t believe in there BS.

  13. Jerri says:

    Gee, I thought Michelle Bachmann was against earmarks and big government spending.