DFLers consider tolls on new St. Croix bridge

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Motorists who will use the future bridge over the St. Croix River that links Minnesota and Wisconsin near Stillwater may have to pay a toll, the Star Tribune reports. It's one way DFL leaders are considering to raise more money for transportation funding.

The newspaper says drivers could be charged as much as $3 to cross the river.

"I'm very open to it," Charlie Zelle, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, told the Star Tribune. "I think it needs to be explored."

Raising the state's gasoline tax is another option favored by key DFL lawmakers, but there is little enthusiasm among GOP legislators.

Minnesota last passed a gas-tax hike in 2008 after lawmakers overrode a veto by then Governor Tim Pawlenty, MPR reported.

The Pioneer Press says the first phase of the new four-lane St. Croix River crossing will begin this spring. The $676 million project is expected to be complete by the fall of 2016.

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MnDOT officials tell MPR that foundation work on the new bridge crossing the St. Croix River downstream from Stillwater will begin next spring, rather than in 2014. The proposed four-lane bridge connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin will replace the 80-year-old Stillwater Lift Bridge. The entire project is estimated to cost up to $676 million and take about three years to complete.

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