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MnDOT: Deadline in Jeopardy for New Hwy 53

Updated: 07/02/2014 7:48 PM
Created: 07/02/2014 4:36 PM WDIO.com

The complicated process of moving a major state highway for mining, is taking longer than expected. And that means the May, 2017 deadline to have a new roadway in place, is in jeopardy.

That's according to MnDOT's project manager, Roberta Dwyer.

"We continue to negotiate with the land owner and the mining company, and all the stakeholders, as we develop a construction schedule. When we look at the design, we will try and use techniques to expedite the project," Dwyer said. 

What's taking longer than expected is the geo-technical work needed in the Rouchleau Pit. MnDOT needs to find out what kind of foundations could be put down into the pit, to support a road or bridge.

Companies who are interested in putting in those test foundations will be touring the site next Wednesday. The actual testing work is expected to begin in August.

Until all of that information is fully vetted, a decision cannot be made on where the best alternative will be.

United Taconite, which is owned by Cliffs Natural Resources, said they are disappointed with the delays. "We hope that MnDOT can address these concerns in a timely fashion, and that they can get back on track. It's extremely important to keep this project on schedule to avoid interfering with the mine operations," shared Sandy Karnowski, District Manager of Public Affairs for Cliffs.

Cost estimates are also higher than expected so far, ranging from $240 million to $460 million. MnDOT said they are looking a combination of state and federal funding to pay for the project.

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