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Group asks Wisconsin to step up action on Stillwater Bridge

The Minnesota Department of Transportation recently informed a legislative oversight committee that it plans to move the Stillwater Bridge Project higher on the priority list.

Now a pro-bridge advocacy group says Wisconsin should do the same.

On June 14, MnDOT officials reported to the Minnesota Legislature's joint committee on transportation that it was accelerating the Stillwater Bridge replacement project start date to 2013.

After the meeting with MnDOT, Rep. Kathy Saltzman, DFL-Woodbury, let it be known that Minnesota now expects some action from Wisconsin on the project.

"The other piece that is very critical to this is the Wisconsin funding," said Saltzman. "But we do need to put some pressure on the Wisconsin side. We're starting to talk, 'Here's our pot of money, now where is yours.'"

Now the group called the St. Croix Alliance for an Interstate Bridge has joined Saltzman in pushing for action from the Wisconsin side.

In a June 27 letter to Frank Busalacchi, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the group asked Wisconsin to follow Minnesota's lead.

"Now that MnDOT has brought forward a firm construction date and funding commitment, we are asking the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to do the same," wrote John Soderberg, chairman of the alliance.

Soderberg asked Busalacchi for a commitment that Wisconsin meet the 2013 start date and funding that Minnesota has committed to. He also said valley residents on both sides of the river were happy to see the move made by MnDOT.

"Those of us in the St. Croix Valley couldn't be happier," Soderberg wrote.

"We have lived with serious transportation problems associated with the historic, but functionally obsolete lift bridge, and we are excited to see real progress. The history of the river project has been long and frustrating," he added.

He also noted in his letter that local residents have been working hard throughout the years to keep the project going and have often had to overcome difficult obstacles.

Soderberg told Busalacchi that he believes the work of the bridge project stakeholder group will prevail against new obstacles including the court case brought against the project by the Sierra Club.

The St. Croix Alliance for an Interstate Bridge was formed in 1996 after the National Park Service recommended that no federal permits be issued for the bridge project.

The group is a non-profit organization that operates in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.