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Oak Park Heights ends objections to new St. Croix bridge

Another hurdle has been overcome in eventual building a new four-lane bridge over the St. Croix River between Stillwater, Minn. and Houlton, Wis.

Oak Park Heights city officials on the Minnesota side of the project had objected to the overall project, saying it would cost them almost $3 million to relocate existing utilities. Minnesota lawmakers recently approved $1 million of bonding for the utility work.

Last night, the City Council in Oak Park Heights, Minn., voted 4 to 1 to end its longstanding objection to the new bridge. That was after Gov. Mark Dayton promised to seek $1.5 million in federal funds to move the utilities. If Washington says no, Dayton said he would try to secure additional state bonding.

That would leave about $350,000 for Oak Park Heights to cover, and the council agreed to that.

The four-lane St. Croix bridge had been debated for years until Congress and President Obama agreed to exempt the project from the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Construction is scheduled to begin next May. The new bridge between Hudson and Stillwater, Minn., is due to open in the fall of 2016.

State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) called the news of Oak Park Heights' decision as emcouraging.

"I commend the City Council members who voted for this measure and applaud their commitment to this project," she said. "I am pleased that another hurdle to construction on this vital transportation link has been cleared."