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Three-lane Stillwater bridge endorsed by Sierra Club, but booed by county board chairs

An alternative bridge proposal for the St. Croix River in Stillwater was endorsed today by the Sierra Club’s North Star Chapter.

But county commissioners from the affected areas in Minnesota and Wisconsin said they don’t like the plan at all.

This proposal would put a three-lane bridge across the river, near the existing but aged Lift Bridge. It would run at an angle from near the current bridge site in Wisconsin and come into Minnesota south of downtown Stillwater. The middle lane would be reversible, to accommodate rush-hour traffic going either way.

This plan was put forth as an alternative to a freeway-style bridge further south, which would connect with Hwy. 36 in Oak Park Heights. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Gov. Mark Dayton support this bigger, more expensive plan, but it’s adamantly opposed by Congresswoman Betty McCollum.

Jim Rickard, Sierra Club St. Croix Valley group spokesperson, said in a statement today:

“We have long called on state and federal leaders to honor the protected status of the St. Croix by rejecting the current blufftop-to-blufftop, $690 million boondoggle, and to put all options on the table. This is an opportunity to change course and get it right.”

“Some question the need for a new bridge, and advocate for fixing up the historic lift bridge. However, the Sierra Club’s leadership deems this a balanced and reasonable compromise,” said Rickard.

But in an op-ed piece in today’s Pioneer Press, Gary Kriesel, chair of the Washington County Board of Commissioners, and Daryl Standafer, chair of the St. Croix County Board of Supervisors, said proponents of this three-lane, diagonal bridge are wrong:

Unfortunately, their bridge is too good to be true. In this case, what is being called new and sensible is actually an old and rejected plan and it is far from sensible. It is a false choice that plays fast and loose with facts, plays with emotion, and ignores the realities.

We should know. We represent the people who live, work, and pay taxes in St. Croix County in Wisconsin and Washington County in Minnesota. Collectively our residents and businesses have spent decades not only dealing with the bridge’s problems, but also looking at the best way to solve them.

They prefer the freeway bridge plan:

It’s far more sensible to build a new bridge that truly addresses traffic problems, protects the river, respects historic landmarks, and does not destroy the view of the river from Lowell Park.

Replacing the Stillwater Lift Bridge is complicated, because we need a solution that addresses more than just a new bridge. We need to improve our roads in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, reduce traffic congestion on roads that were not designed to handle such a high volume of vehicles, and enhance access to the river. At the same time, we need to protect the wild and scenic river that helps make our region a great place.

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