When will Highway 53 be moved?

By KBJR News 1

When will Highway 53 be moved?

July 2, 2014 Updated Jul 2, 2014 at 3:30 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- The Minnesota Department of Transportation says it needs more time to analyze possible routes to relocate Highway 53 on the Iron Range.

MnDot says it is highly unlikely that the road will be relocated by May 5, 2017.

Project leaders are working to solve technical engineering challenges including preliminary bridge designs, landowner negotiations and the environmental review process.

As issues are resolved, MnDot says the project schedule will become clearer to show a project completion date.

“We have been working very hard to develop the project to get it done by 2017,” said Duane Hill, MnDOT District 1 Engineer. “However, we have found that the best route options have some of the most difficult geologic conditions we’ve ever encountered.”

Hill says air quality, extremely hard rock and the potential of other mineable minerals have required more investigation to determine possible effects on building a road.

To better determine a schedule, MnDOT plans to do another round of tests on the foundation in the mine pit this summer,

The project cost has increased due to the technical challenges, according to leaders.

Current costs estimates with contingencies for the "build" alternatives being considered range from $240-$460M.

Project leaders say $90M is currently allocated and the balance of the required funding will be sought from State and federal sources including grants and special programs.

Monthly Coffee and Conversation updates are held the first Thursday of each month at the MnDOT Office in Virginia located at 101 Hoover Road in Virginia.

The next updates are July 3 and August 7.

Highway 53 currently sits on land owned by mining companies.

In 1960, MnDOT obtained easement rights to the land with the agreement that it would move the highway off the land within three years’ notice.

In 2010, United Taconite and RGGS Land and Minerals, the companies with the mining rights, notified MnDOT that they needed to mine under the road.

The companies allowed MnDOT seven years, instead of three, to relocate the road.

MnDOT says it is working closely with the mine companies on the issues around a schedule change.

“We greatly appreciate the schedule concerns the land owner and mining companies have,” Hill said. “We are working hard to find solutions to the issues that satisfy everyone’s needs.”

MnDOT says it will continue to provide timely project status updates as the project progresses.

For more information ,visit the project website.