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Political leaders hail new St. Croix bridge at groundbreaking ceremony

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Political leaders from two states and two parties sang the praises of the new St. Croix River bridge under construction near Stillwater at Tuesday's groundbreaking ceremony.

Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar were among the policymakers wielding gold shovels and touting the economic benefits of the bridge that will be known as the St. Croix Crossing when it opens, which is slated to be in 2016.

The togetherness at Tuesday ceremony is a contrast to the decades of squabbling that preceded last year's authorization of the new bridge.

Transportation planners have long clamored for a better alternative to the Stillwater lift bridge to move the growing number of interstate commuters across the St. Croix River valley. But in addition to being a busy transportation corridor, the St. Croix is also a National Scenic River. As recently as the fall of 2010 the Park Service fought against the new bridge, saying it would fundamentally alter the river's scenic character.

The following spring Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who represented the area before redistricting, introduced a bill to override the Park Service's concerns.

With Klobuchar's backing, the measure sailed through the Senate. It was narrowly approved by the House early last year despite opposition from Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum, who now represents the area and complained about the size and cost of the bridge.

The bridge's design was released last summer, with the Transportation Department calling it a signature bridge for Minnesota.

A MnDOT web page is chronicling the bridge's progress.

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