Looking inside the Capitol, we’re noticing three themes that are similar to what we’re experiencing inside our own state capitols in Minnesota and Wisconsin: Bipartisanship can sometimes be challenging, money is being more cautiously allocated and creating jobs is a priority.
That’s why S. 1134, the St. Croix River Crossing Project, which allows for the replacement of a deteriorating, 80-year-old lift bridge connecting Stillwater, Minn., and Houlton, Wis., with a new bridge, is such great legislation — it’s completely bipartisan, doesn’t require any additional federal government spending and would create thousands of jobs. Such legislation might seem too good to be true, but it’s not.
In January, the Senate passed S. 1134, sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), by voice vote. Now we’re asking for the House to act quickly and pass this legislation as well.
Minnesota and Wisconsin have the money for this project, and it’s actually shovel-ready, but first we need the House to approve a single, project-specific waiver to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
The building of this bridge is the top issue to people in this region, and it’s an urgent issue. Given Minnesota’s state budget, if Minnesota doesn’t begin the project soon, the state will need to repurpose the money set aside for it. Without Minnesota’s contribution, this much-needed bridge cannot be built — meaning a huge transportation problem will go unresolved and promising new jobs will not be created.
S. 1134 represents bipartisanship at its finest. What other legislation unites Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Klobuchar and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.)? Or Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) and Sean Duffy (R-Wis.)? Would anything but a strong, thoughtful, well-developed piece of legislation be able to unite such a diverse group of committed public servants?
And although these public servants hail from Wisconsin and Minnesota, S. 1134 is not an earmark. We are simply asking Congress to allow for a narrow, project-specific exemption for this desperately needed bridge to be constructed.
By approving this legislation, thousands of needed, good-paying construction jobs would be created without Congress allocating any additional money.
The existing bridge, built in 1931, has an estimated capacity of 11,200 vehicles per day, but it currently averages more than 18,000, making the bridge obsolete and unsafe. Knowing the developing growth of this region and the increasing inadequacy of the current bridge, the respective area and the project itself have been studied for decades.
This legislation is truly a partnership between local and state governments, community leaders, interest groups and dozens of stakeholders. These groups all factored in costs, location, environmental protections, needs being met and a host of other considerations and determined that the proposal is the best solution to the rapidly growing problems of the current 80-year-old bridge. Furthermore, without this legislation, our states will be forced to make limited repairs, which would only put a Band-Aid on a problem requiring open-heart surgery.
We have been honored to work with our respective Congressional delegations on this topic, and we appreciate all the great work they have done in advancing this legislation. Now, however, Minnesota is almost out of time.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.