Nolan Tours Range Highway Projects

By KBJR News 1

March 25, 2013 Updated Mar 25, 2013 at 7:21 PM CDT

Ely, MN (NNCNOW.com) - U.S. 8th District Congressman Rick Nolan spent the day on the Iron Range, meeting with officials to discuss several major highway projects in the area.

One of those was the proposed highway 169 realignment project near Eagles Nest Lake.

For over a decade, a task force has been working with MnDOT to determine which sections of the highway 169 corridor between Virginia and Ely need to be fixed. They determined that the area near Eagles Nest Lake was the most hazardous.

"We don't have any guardrails. We don't have anything to protect if you go [off the road and] into the woods," said task force member, Roger Skraba, to the Congressman.

They say the highway's shaded areas, which can sometimes hide icy spots, paired with curving roads and narrow shoulders make for a deadly combination.

"If you don't see them [other cars] because you're coming right around the corner and all of a sudden there they are, it's not a good situation," said task force co-chair, Bill Erzar, to the group on the tour.

MnDOT's plans to improve the road call for straightening and flattening it while making the shoulders wider. They say all options would be safer than the way the stretch of highway is now.

"Every single one of those alternatives will have the same safety performance. That's one of the points we wanted to make with the task force," said MnDOT District 1 Engineer, Duane Hill.

The Congressman agreed that action needs to be taken to put the project into motion and make the highway safer.

"Those [highway conditions] are all very unsafe conditions and we need to make some improvements on this road and we need to do it sooner rather than later," Rep. Nolan said.

Prior to touring the corridor, the congressman met with officials at United Taconite to discuss another Range highway project – the relocation of highway 53.

Nolan discussed the impact of the reroute options on the mine and other businesses.

He said he felt one of the best options for the highway reroute would be the E-2 alignment, which would move the highway along the eastern edge of the mine.

Nolan said he felt the proposed westerly option was not a good solution for the reroute because it would be "devastating for business."

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.