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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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St. Croix River bridge supporters celebrate long-awaited legislation

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann were among those in Stillwater at the Saturday morning event. After decades of debate, lawmakers voted Thursday to exempt the proposed St. Croix River crossing from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. President Obama is expected to support it. The new four-lane bridge will replace the 80-year-old Stillwater Lift Bridge.

Supporters of new St. Croix River bridge set to celebrate Saturday

Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Michele Bachmann will be among the people in Stillwater this weekend for the event. The U.S. House and Senate sent legislation to President Obama exempting the $700 million dollar project from the the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

No vote in 2011 for new St. Croix River crossing

Federal environmental approval for the the new St. Croix River bridge will have to wait until next year. Lawmakers adjourned for the holidays without taking any congressional action. Eight U.S. House members from Minnesota and Wisconsin are urging their colleagues to make the project a priority. The $690 million, four-lane bridge would replace the current 80-year-old Stillwater Lift Bridge between Minnesota and Wisconsin.