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Delay in Decision on Highway 53 Relocation

Updated: 04/07/2014 10:01 AM
Created: 04/03/2014 4:08 PM WDIO.com

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the relocation of Highway 53 for mining, is still under review by the Federal Highway Administration.

"They're asking good questions, and want us to explain and document a lot more. Which in the long run will be good," said project manager Roberta Dwyer, who is with MnDOT.

However, this means that the publication of the draft EIS won't happen until June, and the decision on where the road will be moved, is also pushed back into late summer.

"This puts us under an even tighter construction schedule," Dwyer said.

They had a tight schedule to begin with. The deadline to move the road is May of 2017, so only four years from now. Options on the table include going through the current United Taconite mine pit, or through the Rouchleau pit in Virginia.

MnDOT recently met with eight construction firms, who shared their input about the project.

"Their main concerns include the access to the project, the winter weather that could affect construction, and the time frame of when it needs to be done," Dwyer told us. "It was excellent feedback."

More cost estimates are being done. Senator Dave Tomassoni questioned the MnDOT finance director recently, about funding for the project. The director told him the money will come from existing road construction funds or bonding. 

Speaking of bonding, in the house bonding bill, there is almost $20 million dollars for the relocation of utilities for the folks who live in Midway.

There are also changes ahead for the people in Midway. "The Cuyuna crossover will have to close when the new road is built. We are looking at other options, including keeping the right on, right off there. And at the Vermilion intersection, keeping the right on, right off open. Or making a new crossover altogether," Dwyer said. Nothing has been finalized.

Like many parts of this complex project, there are many decisions to be made. "We are reaching for expertise across the nation," Dwyer added.

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