Long-suffering bridge backer gets his dayAfter 15 years of political ups and downs, John Soderberg spent Friday basking in the news that Congress had finally opened the door for the future construction of a new bridge at Stillwater, Minn.
By: By Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
After 15 years of political ups and downs, John Soderberg spent Friday basking in the news that Congress had finally opened the door for the future construction of a new bridge at Stillwater, Minn.
“It’s going to to be a great thing for New Richmond,” said Soderberg, chairman of the board at First National Community Bank in New Richmond. “It’s one of the most exciting things I’ve ever been a part of. It’s done, put to bed and we’re finally going to get this thing built.”
Soderberg, who has served as co-chairman for the Coalition for the St. Croix River Crossing over the past year, first became involved in the push for a bridge in 1997. At that time, he was asked to lead a group of local leaders who were advocating for a replacement bridge over the St. Croix.
Soderberg admitted that he didn’t have any idea that the political battle would take such a long time to play out.
The key to getting Congress to act this time, Soderberg said, was the political pressure brought to bear by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
“It was a great lesson in democracy,” Soderberg said. “They all did a great job for us. They didn’t waiver and they stuck together.”
Soderberg traveled to Washington, D.C. about eight times over the years in an effort to get a bridge built. He said his most recent trip, with a group of supporters from across the region, helped push the project to the forefront of the political calendar.
Soderberg said once the new bridge is constructed, it will become a destination for tourists because of its beauty. The planned bicycle and pedestrian loop that will incorporate the new bridge and old Lift Bridge will also be a big tourist draw, he added.
“It’s going to be good for Stillwater,” he said. “It’s going to be good for everyone.”
Soderberg said shorter commutes that will result from a new bridge will save people money and time in the long run, and the environmental impact of idling cars will be lessened.
Soderberg said the eventual four-lane Highway 64 to New Richmond will also create an improved transportation corridor that will bring growth to the city. He said he expects more commercial, industrial and residential development to begin occurring on the northern edge of New Richmond now that road access is likely.
“There will be wonderful opportunities for development for everybody,” he said.