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Bachmann gets bridge, Betty gets bupkes

Both congress members may ultimately benefit from the St. Croix bridge.

It almost got by us because of the continuous loop dog-and-pony show going on regarding the Vikings stadium, but a far more consequential construction project is now on the way:

Decades of debate over the proposed St. Croix River crossing ended Thursday with a five-minute vote in the U.S. House, which approved the plan overwhelmingly and sent it to President Obama for his signature.

The 339-80 vote easily surpassed the two-thirds needed to fast-track the project, a move made necessary after Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton gave Congress a March 15 deadline before reallocating state funding.

“This is it!” said Rep. Michele Bachmann, who carried the bill in the House. “After decades of bureaucratic holdups and frivolous lawsuits from radical environmentalists, the people of the St. Croix River Valley will finally have their bridge.”

A few thoughts:

  • It is a win for Bachmann, who currently represents the district but will not be representing the immediate Stillwater area next year. For all of Bachmann’s visibility on the political scene, getting this bridge built is one of the most important accomplishments of her career.
  • Although she won’t admit it, this is also a break for Betty McCollum, who will now face Stillwater’s voters for the first time in 2012. McCollum noisily opposed this bridge and while some might consider the vote a political defeat for her, it’s actually a good thing. Her opposition to the project was certainly going to be a campaign issue that would have hurt McCollum. She can get her harrumphing out of the way now and concentrate on her primary campaign task, which is avoiding debates with opponents.
  • The reason this bridge wasn’t built 40 years ago is because of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, a goo-goo law that Walter Mondale shepherded back in the early 1970s. While the St. Croix is scenic enough, especially upriver from Stillwater, there’s a giant power plant on the shoreline that dominates the view for miles, so it’s always struck me as silly that environmentalists were so hellbent on keeping the St. Croix pristine. It hasn’t been a pristine river for a very long time now.
  • Some people are bitter about the bridge because they assume that it will spur increasing development in Wisconsin. That development has been happening for a very long time now and wasn’t going to stop in any event. If Minnesota wants to slow that development, the job is make Minnesota a more desirable place to live. And if government wants a role in making that happen, perhaps they ought to consider what is happening across the St. Croix these days.

This post was written by Mark Huering and originally published on Mr. Dilettante’s Neighborhood.


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