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U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum

McCollum to back Washington County transit initiatives

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U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum said she will continue to support Washington County transit initiatives in her new role representing a large swath of the county.

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McCollum, a Democrat easily re-elected earlier this month in her redrawn 4th Congressional District that now encompasses all of Woodbury, Oakdale and Lake Elmo, met with the Washington County Board in Stillwater last week. She told commissioners she will back the county's efforts to expand express bus and commuter rail service along the I-94 Gateway Corridor and the Red Rock Corridor along Highway 61. Her district also includes Newport.

The two rapid transit corridors are at the heart of the county's future transportation plans, with thousands more vehicles expected to traverse its already busy roadways in coming decades.

"We have a responsibility [to do] not just what makes sense today," McCollum told commissioners, but what is cost-effective and efficient decades into the future.

"You guys are doing real, thoughtful work" on transit, she told the board.

McCollum and Washington County commissioners have not always aligned on transportation issues. She opposed plans for a new highway-style crossing over the St. Croix River at Stillwater that the board and a bipartisan contingent of Minnesota representatives in Washington, D.C. firmly supported.

But board members last week praised McCollum for her work in assisting transit projects at the federal level.

"We do appreciate your support for Gateway even though, in the past, much of it wasn't in your district," District 5 Commissioner Lisa Weik told McCollum.

Cliffhanger?

McCollum also touched on the so-called "fiscal cliff," the looming automatic cuts to federal spending and expiration of Bush-era tax cuts that will take effect if Congress cannot agree on how to tackle the growing budget deficit by year-end. Many economists say the fiscal cliff could plunge the national economy back into recession.

McCollum did not vote for the Budget Control Act earlier this year, the legislation that put the automatic cuts and tax hikes in place, saying Congress "kicked [deficit reduction] down the road" by doing so.

She expressed confidence, however, that Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner would reach a deal to avert the cliff.

"The one thing I hear from businesses is, 'We need to stop the uncertainty,'" she said. "They don't care if it's a Democratic plan or a Republican plan. They want to see a plan."

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