Tuesday groundbreaking will signal Stillwater bridge swan song


After decades of divisive politics and policies that sometimes turned personal, Tuesday will see a ceremony that officially marks the construction of a new St. Croix River bridge.

The groundbreaking will no doubt look toward "a promised transformation of communities on both sides of the scenic waterway," as the Star Tribune puts it. But it will also signal the end of an era -- several eras, actually -- for the Stillwater Lift Bridge.

The paper offers a look back on how the lift bridge, and its soon-to-be companion arching over the river, came to be. The $629 million project has a long history, the paper reports, with controversy going as far back as 1968 when then-U.S. Sen. Walter Mondale co-authored the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which governs the St. Croix and 202 other rivers nationwide.

The piece also details Sen. Amy Klobuchar's political acumen in getting the project funded in Washington, pitting her against Mondale's legislation.

“This was supposed to be the bridge that couldn’t be built,” she told the Strib Monday. “I think a lot of people believed that we couldn’t get this done.

The push for a new bridge also put Klobuchar at odds with environmentalists and even Rep. Betty McCollum, one of Klobuchar's Democratic counterparts in the Minnesota congressional delegation. Proving that old cliche about politics and bedfellows, Klobuchar actually teamed with Rep. Michele Bachmann to get the deal done.

The Stillwater Lift Bridge  was completed in 1931 and will become part of a hiking and biking trail once the new span opens.

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