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Groundbreaking today for new St. Croix bridge

Artist rendering of the new St. Croix Bridge

STILLWATER - Decades of legal and political blood have been shed over the new Saint Croix River bridge near Hudson.

Now that construction is beginning, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (DFL-Plymouth)says she hopes the new four-lane bridge will be symbol of unity and not divisiveness. A ground-breaking ceremony will be held this afternoon in Stillwater for the $630-million bridge. The Gopher and Badger states are splitting the costs of the project, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will be among those on hand for the ceremony. Klobuchar has been a strong supporter of the new bridge, against the wishes of some political allies and environmentalists.

A couple years ago, a federal judge in Minneapolis ruled that the new bridge would violate terms of the Wild-and-Scenic Rivers Act, under which the Saint Croix is protected. That put congressional representatives from both states to work - and a year ago, Congress and President Obama granted an exception from the river act so the bridge could be built.

The new bridge is expected to open in 2016 between Stillwater and Hudson. It will replace the 80-year-old Stillwater Lift Bridge, which will become a bicycle-and-walking trail.