New Stillwater bridge: As deadline and redistricting loom, pressure is on Bachmann

A rendering of the controversial freeway-style bridge design currently on the table.
A rendering of the controversial freeway-style bridge design currently on the table.

After the upcoming election, Michele Bachmann will no longer represent Stillwater. Nonetheless, she remains "absolutely committed" to building a new Minnesota-to-Wisconsin bridge in the Stillwater area.

Time is running short for the bridge design currently under consideration. In response to a letter from Gov. Dayton informing her that the state will use money set aside for bridge construction for other transportation projects if the U.S. House doesn't approve the bridge by March 15, Bachmann said she remains devoted to "seeing the project through to completion."

The Stillwater area is now in Betty McCollum's 4th congressional district. McCollum, an opponent of the four-lane freestyle-style bridge design currently under consideration, issued a statement saying "Dayton is right that the burden of passing this legislation squarely rests with Congresswoman Bachmann."

"It's doubtful this flawed bill will pass the House on the Governor's timeline," McCollum continued. "I will continue working for a more fiscally-responsible, appropriately-scaled replacement bridge for Stillwater."

The bridge design supported by Dayton and Bachmann would essentially extend Highway 36 from Oak Park Heights into Wisconsin, where it would link up with Highway 64. It would replace the 81-year-old Stillwater Lift Bridge and cross the St. Croix River five miles north of I-94.

Project cost is estimated to be up to $690 million, divided between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Federal action is needed because the project needs an exemption from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to proceed.

That exemption has already been approved by the U.S. Senate, where it was supported by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, but the House bill is still languishing in committee and only eight legislative days remain between now and Dayton's March 15 deadline.

Does Bachmann have the political clout to get the exemption fast-tracked through the House? We'll find out over the next three weeks. It's her last shot to get it done before redistricting puts the project under McCollum's less-supportive purview.

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