Posted at: 05/14/2013 6:04 PM
Updated at: 05/14/2013 6:10 PM
It was the first "Coffee and Conversation" meeting at MnDOT in Virginia on Tuesday. And it was well attended.
The project manager for the Highway 53 relocation, Roberta Dwyer, answered questions and provided an update on where they are now. About 30 people were at the meeting.
MnDOT is working on finding an alternative route for the highway, just south of Virginia. Cliffs Natural Resources plans on mining under the current roadway. The deadline to move the road is 2017.
The public knows about three potential areas for the re-route. One is through the current mine pit. One is up around the eastern side of Virginia and would require a bridge over the large Rochleau mine pit there. And the third and most unpopular option is up Highway 37 and County Road 7.
At Tuesday's meeting, Dwyer told the group that drilling in the Rochleau Pit has already begun. It will determine what kind of foundations a bridge/road would need, and what material is still in there.
Contractors from across the country have already heard about this unique project, she told the group, and are already offering ideas.
Also, MnDOT is in the process of selecting an economist who will undertake a major economic study about the impact of moving the road.
Positive and negative feedback about the routes will be needed, Dwyer said. The study will likely start in June, and be wrapped up in October.
Other activities are taking place, like work on a bridge design, and survey work around the proposed alternate routes.
A group called 53 Impact has been formed by local business leaders and others, who want to stay informed about the progress of the project. They said their mission is to create a unified message concerning the impact of the relocation of Highway 53. They are strongly opposed to the western route.
Kerry Washke Collie said she felt the meeting provided a great update. Dwyer echoed it was a good start at exchanging information.
The next meeting will be Tuesday, May 28th, at 10am at MnDOT headquarters in Virginia again.