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Stillwater bridge project may get stand alone federal consideration

April 2, 2011
In The News

Wisconsin Public Radio

By Rich Kremer

Federal legislation has been introduced to allow a bridge project linking western Wisconsin and Minnesota to sidestep the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. For decades, attempts to replace a 1930’s era steel liftbridge between Houlton, Wis. and Stillwater, Minn. have been held up by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and legal challenges by the Sierra Club. Now, a bill is circulating for co-sponsorship that would give a waiver to the act and allow for new construction over the federally protected St. Croix River. U.S. Congressman Ron Kind is a co-sponsor of the bill and says the old bridge is a traffic nightmare and endangers the safety of those who cross it. Kind sites the collapse of the I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis as a reason to act now.

Kind says, “I don’t want that same type of accident to occur on this bridge that exists over the St. Croix. The traffic volume now that goes over that bridge is astounding.”

But even if the bill passes and the project is given an exemption from the Wild Rivers Act there is still the question of where the $300 million would come from to build it. Kind says the project may be included in a new transportation bill, which he says is two years overdue. The Sierra Club says it's concerned over an exemption, but wouldn't say if it would pursue further legal action.