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Editorial: Bridge delay almost comical

The St. Croix River Crossing Project, known to most people as the new Stillwater (Minn.) Bridge, continues to plod along, but recent developments make the situation downright ridiculous. The most recent circumstances found a truck rumbling down the bridge and damaging 11 overhead cross sections.

The bridge situation would be comical if the whole situation wasn't impacting thousands of people every day. With the lift bridge going up and down for boat traffic, an old two-lane highway getting more use every year, and truck traffic being limited, things are getting out of hand.

Police spent way too much time going to and from the bridge to get trucks turned around. Apparently, not every trucker in the universe knew the bridge was closed to truck traffic. By the time they realized they had gone too far down the road, they needed police help to get turned around.

The bridge has now been scheduled for closure for repairs; meanwhile, the Sierra Club continues to look for ways to stop the progress of building a new bridge. When is enough enough? The Sierra Club has already cost taxpayers millions and millions of dollars (probably hundreds of millions) by delaying this project. We think it's time for the Sierra Club to fight a different battle, and it's time to build a new Stillwater Bridge.

There is some good news on the horizon.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation recently made the Stillwater Bridge a Tier One funding priority. Minnesota took steps to move up the planned construction of the new Stillwater Bridge from 2014 to 2013. As part of this commitment, Minnesota has approved the use of funds to cover its obligation for this construction project.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of Western Wisconsin legislators urged Wisconsin to follow suit.

The St. Croix Bridge Alliance and State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, and State Reps. Kitty Rhoades, R-Hudson, John Murtha, R-Baldwin, and Ann Hraychuck, D-Balsam Lake, have all urged the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to make the necessary planning and funding decisions in anticipation of a 2013 construction start date.

We applaud the legislators of both parties willing to join the battle to try to get this project on the move.

As Rhoades said, the existing bridge is antiquated, outdated and potentially dangerous.

Harsdorf summed up the sentiments of most: "The need for a new bridge is ever apparent, given the problems we see now--we simply cannot afford to wait."

It is difficult to maintain interest and excitement in many bureaucratic projects, but the Stillwater Bridge probably will set some sort of record for the amount of time, frustration and expenses involved in studies and planning. Yet, it is important that citizens remain focused and involved in this project. The vast majority of people recognize the need for a new bridge, but it is just this type of lengthy process that sometimes creates windows of opportunity for a vocal minority.

The process can be frustrating at times, but we are confident that enough people will stay active in the planning and that a new Stillwater Bridge will someday be built. Let's keep this project moving forward!