Obama administration to lawmakers: Work out a deal on St. Croix bridge

Sec. Ray LaHood
Sec. Ray LaHood

Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by Matty Lang on 11/16/2011 - 07:17 pm.

    With all due respect to Senator Klobuchar, Central Corridor and Union Depot are actually good investments for the state–they are a part of expanding the network of infrastructure that will give people an option other than driving all the time to all destinations. The proposed St. Croix sprawl bridge is not a good investment as it will only serve to encourage more people to live further away from existing job centers and transportation infrastructure (outside of Minnesota as well, I might add) and to drive over a greater distance while spending more time driving.

    This, of course, will only lead to more driving and congestion on the rest of the roads to which this new freeway-style crossing will connect. At the same time we will be delaying much needed maintenance on our more than adequately build out existing road system.

  2. Submitted by James Hamilton on 11/16/2011 - 07:20 pm.

    Do any of them understand that it’s not simply about bringing home the bacon? Either we need the bridge, as proposed, or we don’t. If it can be built for less, fine. But that doesn’t mean we can or should be permitted to use the difference on other MN projects.

    Get your noses out of the darn trough, will ya’?

  3. Submitted by Tom Clark on 11/16/2011 - 09:59 pm.

    I’m not sure what role the cabinet has here, given that it’s Congress that has the power to either pass or not pass a bill authorizing a new bridge over the St. Croix at Stillwater.

    Otherwise, the cost estimate of the proposed alternative is already going up, I see. Funny thing, that. Given the right of way for the old Braun alternative (which is the corridor the last go round agreed on, including the U.S. Park Service) is already purchased and ready to go and the alternative proposal was already found wanting (thanks to it running right into the bluff where a nice little restaurant currently sits), any savings of cost won’t be worth building a bridge that will be inadequate for future demand.

  4. Submitted by William Pappas on 11/17/2011 - 05:54 am.

    Matty Lang in #1 has succinctly described the sound transportation policy that MNDOT has actually stated is their goal for the new decade ahead. Klobuchar certainly is intelligent enough to understand that inner city LRT is smart growth and the megabridge promotes uncontroled sprawl that actually encourages development needing much larger taxpayer subsidy. That type of growth, requiring long distance commuting and the extension of city services is no longer affordable for the broad swath of middle class or revenue challenged cities. What Tom Clark fails to take into account is that the existing bridge is ILLEGAL. It disregards effective laws in place for 4 decades that govern development on the St. Croix and all rivers in the Wild and Scenic Rivers system. Klobuchar’s legislation and the currently designed mega bridge require an exemption that will unfortunately establish legal precedent for the hundreds of projects proposed by highway departments and developers along designated rivers. This bridge, is exactly the type of project the Act expressly prohibits. The Act’s author, Walter Mondale, agrees: if there is reason to allow this exemption, no river will be “exempt” from Klobuchar’s legislation and the entire WSRA will be effectively diminished. Yes we need a new bridge, but a bridge that destroys the WSRA and encourages sprawl is worse than the “no build” option. Stillwater has many resources available to alleviate traffic problems in downtown but has chosen not to use them, preferring to use the traffic problems as reason for a 700 million dollar solution. The existing bridge can be maintained. MNDOT, ten years ago, allowed the bridge to rust through lack of maintenance. That was either planned or an example of their terrible mismanagement. It still does not justify a 700 million dollar crossing and the destruction of one of our nation’s most cherrished environmental protections.

  5. Submitted by William Pappas on 11/17/2011 - 06:24 am.

    Is sound and ratioinal transportation thinking starting to permeate the politics around the Klobuchar/Bachmann pork debacle? Klobuchar’s attempt to link the regional impact of LRT, not to mention the sound reasons for building it, with the sprawl inducing impact of the “megabridge to nowhere” is disappointing from a lawmaker known for practicality. Advocating for pork, for that’s what the bridge is considering it benefits such a tiny swath of the east metro(Wisconsin commuters and downtwon Stillwater merchants) in return for her support of smart projects in other districts is really government at its worst. I couldn’t be more dismayed by Klobuchar’s politics which are dismissive of environmental law, disregard sound transportation planning, and ignore fiscal responsibility. Make no mistake, this is now Klobuchar’s project. Bachmann and her staff are not competant enough to drive this legislation. Klobuchar must take the heat for her very bad legislative initiative.

  6. Submitted by David Greene on 11/17/2011 - 10:40 am.

    @William

    The sad thing is, the proposed bridge won’t help Stillwater businesses. It will hurt them. The proposed bridge bypasses Stillwater altogether.

    People fail to understand that congestion in a business district isn’t a problem. It’s an opportunity and it demonstrates economic vitality.

  7. Submitted by Susan Oehler Seltzer on 11/17/2011 - 11:56 am.

    William Pappas and Matty Lang have accurately described the lack of leadership and vision by Senator Klobuchar given the dire economic realities and long-term need for sound urban and environmental planning. Mondale had a vision for the future. Senator Klobuchar’s bridge proposal destroys the integrity of that vision and the rules of the National Scenic Riverway legislation. It flies in the face of common sense in these economic times.

    Once there is one variance, where does it stop. It doesn’t.

    Here is the introduction to an article in the October 4, 2011 Atlantic.
    “How Urban Sprawl is a Ponzi Scheme”

    This is a must read for Senator Klobuchar, Governor Dayton and Senator Franken.

    http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2011/10/suburban-sprawl-ponzi-scheme/242/

    “It will not be news to anyone who is reading this that the United States remains in the midst of the deepest economic crisis in my lifetime. (I guess it turns out that you can’t start two major wars while cutting taxes and failing to regulate financial institutions, at least not without paying a steep price. Surprise.) Getting out of this mess and becoming more economically resilient will require a basket of solutions, including a serious look at the way we have been growing our cities and towns.”

    The fact is those on the WI side of the Stillwater bridge just have to drive 5 miles south to the Hudson Bridge, an 8 lane freeway bridge, with no congestion during rush hour. Wisconsin taxpayers can expand WI 35 for WI commuters so they can speed down to the Hudson bridge. It might extend their commute by 10 minutes but this is the common sense solution and leadership all Minnesotan’s would expect of Senator Klobuchar.

    Before there is any further discussion on use of taxpayer dollars for a new bridge, MN taxpayers require Senator Klobuchars’s and Governor Dayton’s long-range plan for suburban sprawl. MN taxpayers deserve an answer as to why WI 35 and the Hudson bridge are not acceptable alternatives for WI commuters in this age of austerity.

  8. Submitted by Tom Clark on 11/17/2011 - 01:19 pm.

    For those who may be familiar with the current construction at I-494 and Hwy. 169, you may also know this is the third time MnDOT has had to redo something that wasn’t done right the first time around. Let’s not make a similar mistake with a new bridge over the St. Croix. The rewarmed proposal to build a lower, smaller bridge has already been evaluated and found wanting and would be far uglier as a major interchange would be plopped right against the bluff right along the river.

    If Minnesotans are truly worried about urban sprawl, the bigger culprit is the fact that Washington County encourages low-density housing in areas that are far closer to the urban core of the Twin Cities than St. Croix County is. If more growth was allowed in Grant Township, people would not have to move further out in the first place.

  9. Submitted by Jason George on 11/17/2011 - 02:48 pm.

    I don’t want to jump in the middle of this, but had to say something. I support the bridge for a few reasons:

    1. Jobs – this project will create much needed construction jobs. Construction workers pay a lot of taxes, which is good for MN because our state needs the money. And anyone that doesn’t understand that construction workers and their families are desperate for work right now hasn’t talked to one in the last 3 years.

    2. Safety – the current bridge is in bad shape by all accounts, most reasonable opponents agree something has to be done. The current proposal is the only one that MNDOT has said can work.

    The local elected leaders on both sides of the river support it, the Governor’s from both states support it, all of the Congressional leaders from the area support it with the exception of Betty and Keith. The local businesses that someone brought up, they support this project.

    As for urban sprawl and all the other discussion – people are free to live where they want. And people that choose to live outside of urban environments pay taxes too. They deserve to be able to get to and from their homes safely.

    The bridge is good for MN construction workers and their families, good for local business, and I applaud Senator Klobuchar for working across party lines to get it done. I find it comical that people are actually criticizing her on this. She found a way to move something forward in a bi-partisan fashion that has been stalled for 30 years. The fact that she is going to get this done in this climate of do nothing political leadership is incredible, and it speaks to her ability as a Senator.

    Thank you Senator Klobuchar for your leadership.

  10. Submitted by Susanna Patterson on 11/17/2011 - 03:40 pm.

    Ten Reasons NOT to build this bridge:
    1. It bypasses the town of Stillwater altogether and will put an end to the town’s tourist industry. Local businesses are blind to this eventuality, however.
    2. The bridge benefits the 9,000 (at most)Wisconsin residents who work in the Twin Cities.
    3. Highway 36 cannot handle the traffic that will be generated — it has been expanded about as much as it can be.
    4. The cost of the bridge – nearly three-quarters of a BILLION dollars — is outrageous: it costs twice as much as the entire Crosstown project did; much more than the emergency rebuild of the 35W Bridge, and would consume MNDOT’s ENTIRE budget for the year.
    5. Wisconsin – until recently – has been unwilling to participate in the costs of building the bridge. Given their track record on withholding tax reciprocity, their promise of participation should not be taken seriously.
    6. Michele Bachmann’s and others’ support for the bridge project is based on the fact that they own farmland in Wisconsin that could be subdivided into residential lots.
    7. The lift bridge is the symbol of the town — it’s a unique feature; an attraction. Duluth also has a lift bridge which is just as old and they have been able to keep it in good shape. It should be possible to repair the existing bridge in Stillwater at far less than a new one would cost.
    8. The new bridge would encourage urban sprawl — Highway 36 would become an uninterrupted string of strip malls, and commercial development along County Road 12 (County Road E when it gets into Ramsey County) and Hwy 96 would make the whole area look quite a bit like Houston — half-vacant strip-malls populated with nail salons, tanning parlors, and dog-grooming shops — and the ubiquitous store-front megachurch….
    9. Oh…and by the way — the St. Croix is SUPPOSED to be a “Scenic and Wild River.” The proposed bridge would put an end to that…
    10. Then there’s the emphasis on “developing western Wisconsin” that State Representative Kathy Lohmer and State Senator Ted Lille (both from Minnesota’s SD56) are so eager to promote. The plan is to sell cheap land to Minnesotans and lure industry – and our tax base — across the river.

    The dream that it will “create jobs” is just that — a dream. Sure, it may create some jobs for some folks from Colorado, as the 35W Bridge did. That bridge was NOT built by a Minnesota company or by Minnesota workers.
    Approval for this bridge, then, ultimately means spending millions of Minnesota taxpayers’ dollars on a project that will benefit Colortado construction workers, a handful of Wisconsin commuters, and some legistators who either hope to make big bucks off of land speculation or are beholden to some major donors who stand to gain in some way from the construction of this boondoggle, pork-barrel bridge to nowhere!

  11. Submitted by chuck holtman on 11/17/2011 - 04:46 pm.

    Again, there are two separate items here. Stillwater’s issues and lift bridge safety issues can be solved by closing the lift bridge to motorized traffic. Done. Cost: $50 for a sign saying “Bridge Closed.” The other question: is a new bridge across the river merited? The bridge needs to be justified on its own terms, and it can’t be. As others have noted, it would produce benefits for a small number of folks in Wisconsin and nothing but harm for the Twin Cities urban region. As the 1980’s-90’s files show, the impetus for the bridge was western Wisconsin towns and developers riding the autocentric sprawl model. The 30-year delay has benefited us all by allowing this model, finally, to be recognized as obsolete, unsustainable and destructive. This is the rare case where – so far – vested bureaucratic and private interests have not steamrollered the public welfare. Mr George (#9), I’m all in favor of job creation via infrastructure investment. We have plenty of places to meaningfully invest – in every county in the state. We can improve infrastructure and economies across the state, or we can dump $1B into the St. Croix River.

  12. Submitted by William Pappas on 11/18/2011 - 06:13 am.

    Karin and Jason, your points are not well taken. There will be jobs provided by transportation dollars, funds won’t be lost if a COMPROMISE is reached, and the dollars can be diverted to more pressing projects in major corridors. The Lift Bridge is not dangerous. You have swallowed misinformation from the Coalition. It is not structurally deficient. The rust is superficial. All of these facts have been verified by engineers. Yes we need a new bridge but the fact is this: Designing a huge, money is no object bridge that promotes sprawl was unwise since it was illegal before it left the drawing board. The Park Service or Interior will never approve a bridge of that scale when alternative options that are closer to the intent of the WSRA are available. Furthermore Karin, Traffic in Stillwater can be alleviated through several means that the Council has avoided. I live in Stillwater, within a few blocks of downtown, and it doesn’t inhibit me from enjoying downtown at all. In fact I like the vitality of it. When the bride is closed the scene is often eerily desolate. The new bridge will be bad for downtown merchants, especially bad for the HW 36 business district (no more Wisconsin business diverted to new sprawl closer to their home) and absolutely dangerous for the future preservation of the Valley around Stillwater, THE VERY REASON PEOPLE VISIT AND LIVE IN STILLWATER! The worst part of this bridge is that Klobuchar’s legislation establishes precedent for encroachment in and over protected rivers not only here but all over the country. Her bill gives a legal pry bar to insinuate development on any designated river. Are you OK with that fallout from a bridge too big, too expensive and too destructive? The no-build option is even better than that. The reason former stakeholders are pushing for the sensible bridge is that the stakeholder process was a sham. MNDOT never realistically presented any non/freeway type scaled down versions. Direct your anager toward MNDOT. They never considered cost, the illegality of the design or the need for enabling legislation. That was an incrdibly arrogant and unwise assumption.

  13. Submitted by Susanna Patterson on 11/18/2011 - 01:45 pm.

    To all of those who believe the promises that have been made that the Historic Lift Bridge will somehow be preserved as a “trail” once the new bridge is built: think again! If that bridge is left in place, it will still have to be raised and lowered to allow navigation north of Stillwater, just as it is now. But where will the money come from? It will still have to be repaired regularly, too. But where will the money for THAT come from? And where will the money come from to build the new bridge? No, it’s not “free” money from Washington — it’s real taxpayers’ money — and will come right out of your pocket — and out of the pockets of millions of Minnesotans and Wisconsinites who will never even use the bridge! What do you think would happen if Minnesota and Wisconsin were to hold a referendum on whether to spend the money on a new bridge that will benefit 9,000 Wisconsin commuters and a handful of Stillwater and Bayport residents — or to spend that money on repairing the existing roads and bridges all around their states? Would the folks in Rochester, Milwaukee, Duluth, Moorehead, Madison, Baraboo, Mankato, St. Cloud and Alexandria vote for this bridge? Is it fair to them for us to spend what amounts to nearly the entire annual budget of MNDoT to build it?

  14. Submitted by Jason George on 11/18/2011 - 01:57 pm.

    William,

    I respect your opinion especially as a resident. But we are just from two different worlds here.

    In my world, Americans need jobs. They need them now. Construction workers especially. People are losing their houses, lots of them.

    In my world we need good roads and bridges not just light rail because in my world cars aren’t going anywhere, they aren’t evil and not everyone in MN wants to bike to work. We need good roads because businesses need to move goods.

    We aren’t going to build a bridge because a few peoples scenic view are going to be disrupted? Or because a few people think they are smarter than every engineer at MNDOT and have a better bridge idea?

    And we wonder what is wrong with America and why we can’t get anything done.

    Exhibit A: It has taken decades to replace a bridge that was out of date for traffic levels in 1980. Not because people don’t agree something should be done, not because there is no money, not because we don’t need the work – But because a few peoples view of the river might be restricted and they don’t like the process of coming up with a new bridge.

    You know, I was born in 1976 so I missed the Nixon era. From what I’ve read I’m not a big fan. But maybe he was on to something when he was talking about the silent majority taking their country back. Although the context he was using that phrase was wrong, maybe the idea of it is right.

    Construction workers and their families need the work. The bridge needs to be replaced. We have the money.

    Build the damn thing.

Leave a Reply