Update on Highway 53 Relocation

Posted at: 04/18/2013 5:45 PM
Updated at: 04/18/2013 10:39 PM

There are some updates on the relocation of Highway 53 for mining.

Mn/DOT and other stakeholders gathered for an important advisory committee meeting on Thursday in Mt. Iron.

It was there they discussed the new timeline for the decision on a re-route. It had been expected the re-route plan would be picked by the end of this year.

Now, because of the need to study more alternatives, the timeline has been pushed back into late 2014.

More studies are needed on issues like traffic, noise, cost, and engineering.

Mn/DOT leaders acknowledged the public is frustrated with the process, which is lengthy and required by law.

"We still need to look at every option, and lay out the the pros and cons for each, and document them," project manager Roberta Dwyer added. "We don't want our children our grandchildren to ever have to do this again, so we need to be very careful."

She stressed there is no preferred route yet, and at this point, there is no easy solution for moving the roadway.

Many in the community had thought a route through the current mine pit would be the best. But Cliffs Natural Resources, owner of United Taconite, is not going to grant an easement for the state to build there. The company cites multiple safety, environmental, and business reasons for objecting to that route.

One that is unpopular is the western route, which would divert traffic up Highway 37, to county road 7, into Mt. Iron.

Another option is focused up around the eastern side of Virginia, but would require a large bridge over an old mine pit. At Thursday's meeting, Mn/DOT said it could be like building a bridge over the Hoover Dam.

The deadline for the new roadway to be in place is May of 2017. Mn/DOT is already working on innovative and new ways to make sure they can meet this timeline, in terms of construction and contractors.

Community leaders like the Mayor of Eveleth said that they all need to work together on this difficult project.

A public meeting is planned on Monday, from 4-7pm, at the Mt. Iron Community Center.