St. Croix River Bridge Plan Is A Mistake

Proposed Bad Idea for New St. Croix River Bridge

Today the US Senate unanimously approved legislation — supported by Minnesota senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken — that would let a proposed bluff-to-bluff interstate-style bridge be constructed in violation of the Federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale helped write the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act when he served as Minnesota’s senator.  Ironically now Klobuchar and Franken will help weaken that law.  We have come to expect simple issues and solutions from Klobuchar, but Franken has been a bit more thoughtful and determined in supporting smart policy.  The proposed St. Croix bridge is neither smart nor thoughtful.

First of all, let’s remember why the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed in the first place.  It exists to protect the scenic and ecological value of the America’s rivers from political and economic interests that would compromise the river’s natural value.  Precisely because people will want to build projects like the proposed bridge is the reason for the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

What we do today has a permanent impact on the river’s future and let’s face it, we don’t always make the best choices in the here and now.

But on a more practical level this bridge does not make sense.  The proposed bridge is needed, supporters claim, to replace the aging Stillwater Lift Bridge.  If this is true, then the proposed new bridge does more than replace the existing bridge, it goes well beyond the service of the current Stillwater bridge.  Designs for a bridge that would in fact replace the service of the current Stillwater bridge exist.

Designs for a smaller bridge respect the tenor of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.  The law was passed in 1968 with the intent of preserving designated rivers from further degradation.  The Stillwater Lift Bridge existed in 1968.  Replacing that bridge with a similar bridge stays within the intent of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

And the smaller bridge designs cost less.


A Better Idea for a New St. Croix River Bridge

In this era of austerity, it is ironic that small government people like Michele Bachmann support a bridge that will cost $700 million and more.  Investing in infrastructure is a smart move during an economic recovery, but we have many projects on existing roads and bridges that need attention and which would benefit more people and a stronger economic base.  I won’t call the multi-lane bridge proposed now a bridge to nowhere, but it does connect metropolitan Minneapolis/St. Paul with relatively undeveloped west central Wisconsin.

If the bridge does spur more growth in west central Wisconsin it will add another layer of threat to the St. Croix River.   Rivers are more than the main river channel, they are watersheds.  What happens miles from the river’s banks impacts water quality.  More development in the watershed is a quality management risk.

It isn’t too late for more thoughtful ideas to prevail.  Representative Betty McCollum (D-St. Paul) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minneapolis) and a growing list of state and local politicians oppose the plan are clear-headed voices opposing a bridge that requires circumventing Federal law.

Better ideas exist, let’s support those ideas and in turn support the river and respect the law.


7 thoughts on “St. Croix River Bridge Plan Is A Mistake

  1. tp

    that undeveloped region in western wisconsin that you refer to needs a bridge into the twin cities whether you find our location relevant or not. we don’t all work at local dinners and live off of $15k a year. probably close to half of western wisconsinites are employed in minnesota. if your plea is for people to be/act smarter, i’d suggest you start thinking about how this bridge effects more than just yourself. to you it is clearly just a structure to nowhere that doesn’t benefit you in the least and is just stomping on your environmental rights, to me its a means for my parents to work and what puts food on their table. if you’re going to expect “smart” from others, put some “smart” in your own article and come at it from a standpoint that doesn’t offend such a large number of people that contribute to minnesota businesses.

    and to state that there are better projects out there that need more attention than replacing this bridge is maybe one of the most ridiculous things i’ve ever heard. after something like the 35w bridge collapse you’re going to let the safety of my family and the families of my friends fall to the back-burner because a road in edina could be smoother? unless you’re ignorant of the safety hazards of the bridge of course, and by the looks of it you are. for someone who cares so much about the environment and the law, you think you could have a little more respect for human safety and life. no. there are not other construction projects that could benefit more people or be better for our region as a whole. it needs to happen. now.

    you could have easily just made the point that there are better designs for the bridge that would be better for the environment without sounding like a huge douche.

  2. pauline kale

    Not sure if the previous commenter even made it past the headline because the comment does not make sense regarding what was actually written.

    Regarding what was written, it would be nice to get an Erin Brockovich type to hold some feet to the fire regarding the illegality of it all…

  3. Tour Guide Post author

    TP…Bridges already cross the St. Croix River. In addition to the old Stillwater bridge, we have the Interstate 94 bridge and Osceola in the region. We can replace the existing Stillwater bridge with a safe bridge without building a multi-lane bridge that costs 2 to three times as much as a more practical replacement that matches the service of the current bridge and remains within the intent of the federal law. What is wrong with that solution?

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