St. Croix bridge backers take case to the White House

WASHINGTON – Supporters of a new bridge over the St. Croix River took their case directly to the White House last week, discussing the matter with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley.

According to a press release from the Coalition for a St. Croix River Crossing, Oak Park Heights council member Mary McComber was in Washington for an event sponsored by the National League of Cities when she raised the question with both officials.

“Secretary LaHood and Bill Daley both said that the St. Croix River Crossing is a top priority for President Obama, and he is committed to moving the project forward,” said McComber.

Replacing aging bridges and other infrastructure is a centerpiece of the White House’s strategy to combat unemployment. Yesterday, President Obama spoke before the Key Bridge in Washington, DC about his proposals and the Senate will vote later today on a bill put forward by DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar to authorize an additional $50 billion in infrastructure spending. That measure, financed by a tax on millionaires, will likely fail due a Republican filibuster.

However, the primary bottleneck for authorizing a replacement span to the aging Stillwater Lift Bridge lies with Congress, not the Executive Branch. Bills in the U.S. House and Senate have been slowly winding through both chambers all year. After first establishing a Sept. 30 deadline for Congress to act before transferring funds for a replacement bridge to other projects, Gov. Dayton has pushed the date back to the end of the year due to the slow legislative pace in Washington.

Last month, the Congressional Budget Office found that building a new bridge will add $8 million to the deficit – mostly due to funds initially earmarked for the bridge in the 2005 highway bill. Due to congressional rules, any bill authorizing a new bridge will have to either cut $8 million in spending elsewhere or raise revenues by a corresponding amount.

Congressional sources say offsetting spending cuts are the most likely route and that leaders in both chambers are identifying reductions that could be paired with the authorizing legislation.

  • Julie Kallemeyn

    Could the Governor or member of the Minnesota congress please tell me when we got past the question of why the public should participate in funding of a private, for-profit venture that does not directly contribute to a function of government? Minnesotans, do you really think this is something we should throw money at when our real estate taxes are rising due to the budget deficit, our roads are crumbling, our schools are in decline, and our environment, air and water quality are in need of immediate help? Republicans – why are you in favor of public funding for a private venture? Democrats, how can you support public funding for a private stadium that only the wealthy can afford to visit?. Can’t we let the wealthy pay more if they want to attend games in their city? Won’t all the rest of us just watch on TV anyway? where did the notion that businessmen need the government to support the profit margins of the NFL and others. I am happy to have a new building if their business model supports it. And Governor Dayton – shame on you.