The current Stillwater Lift Bridge existed when the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed in 1968. The law is intended to protect designated rivers from activity that would substantially degrade any further. We can respect the tenor of that law and replace the Stillwater Lift Bridge. The current plan, however, ignores the better solution and offers a much larger, much more costly bridge instead. If we are going to circumvent federal law and its intent, isn’t it more reasonable to do so with at least some respect to the intent of the law…or do we choose not to care because doing so conflicts with today’s economic and political interests, regardless of how misguided and hypocritical those interests are?
The proposed super highway bridge is not cheap. At nearly $700 million it will cost almost three times the cost to replace the collapsed 35W bridge in Minneapolis. Meanwhile, it should be pointed out, plenty of deteriorating infrastructure exists, serving millions more people in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, would benefit from hundreds of millions of dollars of government investment. (Representative Michele Bachmann, self-proclaimed Tea Party caucus leader, supports this investment in her district, but opposes what she calls pork barrel otherwise.)
The proposed bridge is a large, multi-lane bluff-to-bluff interstate style bridge. The existing Stillwater bridge is a simple two lane bridge. The potential environmental impact of the larger bridge dramatically exceeds the impact of the current bridge. Keep in mind that protecting a river involves more than protecting the main channel of the river. A river is a watershed, and what happens many miles from the river has impact.
A river is water resource with value far beyond its scenic and recreational value, and it is very important to remember it is a limited resource. As such, rivers require special attention and protection.
The very nature of a river shed requires management over a very large geographical region. A bridge that enables more sprawling development only multiples the threats a river will face. Opening yet another major river crossing — we already have a large multi-lane bridge crossing the St. Croix River at Hudson, WI, just south of Stillwater — only adds another layer of threat.
The better solution for replacing the aging Stillwater Lift Bridge is one that respects the intent of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act while maintaining the necessary service a bridge in the Stillwater area provides. Options have been proposed that serve that need and cost significantly less that the current plan.
A bridge that uses the current route on Wisconsin 64 into Stillwater, but traverses the river south of the existing bridge to merge with the Minnesota Highway 36, is a smart choice. It can replace the aging and inefficient lift bridge and be designed for better and increased traffic flow without the expense and size of the proposed bluff-to-bluff design. Justifying a larger bridge when this more appropriate option exists makes no sense.
Currently supporters of the larger, more costly proposal are in a rush to push their plan through Congress. Slowing down and reviewing the motivation behind this rush is the responsible first step. Especially in an era when austerity is the rage, ensuring that we pursue the right priorities with the best plans should be respected.
We can meet the needs for a replacement bridge in Stillwater and do it at a much lower cost than what is proposed. It is ironic that budget cutters like Bachmann and Scott Walker would blindly advocate such an unbalanced and costly proposal. (Eye brow-raising, too, perhaps.)
Slowing down and doing the right thing is in the best interest of everyone.
- Wrong Idea on Proposed Stillwater Bridge (alittletourinyellow.wordpress.com)
- Bachmann likes government spending in her own district (capitolhillblue.com)
- Is This Bridge Worth It? (nytimes.com)