Hwy 53 Westerly Route Out, Stats Explain Why

Posted at: 09/17/2013 6:29 PM
Updated at: 09/17/2013 6:32 PM
By: Maarja Anderson

The numbers behind a a recent decision about the future of Higwhay 53 on the Iron Range were revealed Tuesday. Last month, MnDOT  dropped the controversial westerly route from the options for the Highway 53 relocation.

The route would have taken drivers miles away from Eveleth and Virginia. It's out of the mix now, with some numbers to back up the decision.

The firm that performed the economic survey broke down the numbers in Mountain Iron Tuesday.

"We were studying impacts on retail and employment. We calculated the additional time commuting to work," said Jame McComb, president of McComb Group.

The state has to relocate the highway because Cliffs Natural Resources has easement rights to mine minerals under the current roadway. The westerly route had many business owners worried about losing traffic. John Meglen owns JM Auto in Eveleth.

"My business is right on Highway 53 and would be hugely impacted if we didn't have that traffic going by our business," said Meglen.

According to McComb, over 20 years, drivers would spend 14 million more hours on the road using the westerly route. That's one of several statistics that showed the impacts the route would have on commuting and doing business.

MnDOT said they are now down to five alternatives. They will take a look at each option and all the possible impacts those alternatives could have on the communities.