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Editorial: At last - new bridge in sight

The St. Croix Valley and the entire region has received good news--it finally appears the new Stillwater (Minn.) bridge will become a reality.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 339-80 to exempt the proposed new St. Croix River Crossing project from the restrictions of the Federal Wild and Scenic Riverway Act. The U.S. Senate had unanimously done the same thing earlier this year. And President Barack Obama has concluded the federal process with his signature.

The action, of course, paves the way for eventual construction of a new four-lane bridge over the St. Croix River near Stillwater and Houlton. The new span will replace the 80-year-old Stillwater lift bridge, which has been deemed obsolete and functionally inadequate for years.

Despite the frustrations of seeing the bridge process start and stop so many times over the past few decades, it was encouraging to see area politicians from both parties work together to get this mission accomplished at the federal level.

We applaud the legislators of both parties willing to join the battle to try to get this project on the move. Getting politicians on both sides of the aisle was important in the current process that took an act of Congress to get the bridge project off the ground again.

After the U.S. Park Service's flip-flop in deference to its earlier position a new bridge could conform to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, Congressional approval was necessary.

Whatever the cause, we're delighted nearly all the federal lawmakers--Sens. Johnson, Kohl, Klobuchar and Franken, and Reps. Kind and Bachman--joined voices in support of moving the project forward. Add to the list Congressman Sean Duffy, who will represent St. Croix County when the redistricting process is completed (though Ron Kind will continue to represent nearby Pierce County)--Duffy also supports the new bridge.

Minnesotans weren't quite as fortunate with its redistricting process. Bridge opponent, Congresswoman Betty McCollum, will represent Stillwater (succeeding Michelle Bachman). But her late entry into the fray didn't impact the congressional vote.

Add to the list of supporters a host of state and local representatives, and it was clearly a unified effort--Govs. Walker and Dayton, state politicians, including State Rep. Dean Knudson and State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf. Virtually everyone was on board to get the bridge project moving forward.

The action is incredibly exciting for those of us who've spent literally decades watching plans being drawn up and moved forward, only to be shelved again.

The Sierra Club will no doubt continue its attempts to derail the process, but we believe they are finally running out of ammunition. It's time for the organization to move onto its next battle.

We don't expect the construction project will be on the fast track of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis, but it appears there could be a groundbreaking ceremony in the next couple of years--halleluiah!