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St. Croix EDC joins Stillwater bridge coalition

<i>Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Transportation</i> This photo simulation shows an aerial view of the King Plant looking west and illustrates the proposed St. Croix River Crossing between Oak Park Heights, Minn. and St. Joseph, Wisc.

The St. Croix Economic Development Corporation (EDC) unanimously reaffirmed support late last week for the St. Croix River Crossing project at its January 2011 board meeting. The SCEDC joins the St. Croix County Board of Supervisors, which approved a resolution supporting the new bridge early this month.

SCEDC Director William Rubin called on other civic organizations and local elected boards to adopt resolutions of support.

He said, "With new administrations in Wisconsin and Minnesota, advocates for this project want to demonstrate broad support when Congress is asked to intervene. The project has been analyzed for decades, and with the National Park Service finding last October, the last recourse rests with Congressional action."

The Park Service ruled last October that the proposed river crossing project would directly and adversely affect the St. Croix River, which is protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. In its findings, the Park Service referred to federal language that allows Congress to act in order to resolve a stalemate.

Rubin said bridge supporters initiated conversations with federal legislators, who will be asked to exempt the river crossing from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. A two-state organization called the Coalition for the St. Croix River Crossing has been formed to advocate for the project in Washington, D.C.

A new bridge over the St. Croix River between St. Croix County, Wisconsin and Washington County, Minnesota has been discussed since the 1970s. It would replace a 1930s-era lift bridge in Stillwater, Minnesota, that is at the end of its economic life and that transportation officials have deemed structurally deficient.

"Inaction by Congress does nothing to solve the bigger issue of a deficient lift bridge," said Rubin. "The lift bridge is also impacted by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. It seemingly cannot be expanded or modified without an adverse effect to the St. Croix River."

A new river crossing will help two states (Wisconsin and Minnesota) and a 13-county metro area with a population of 3.25 million people -- address regional transportation shortcomings. Rubin said St. Croix County in Wisconsin and Washington County in Minnesota consistently rank near the top of each state's fastest-growing areas.

Funding for the proposed bridge would come from the Federal Highway Administration, and the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Click the link to go to the Minnesota DOT's project Web site for more information: