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Drilling Work Continues on Hwy 53 Relocation Project

Updated: 07/17/2014 10:23 PM
Created: 07/17/2014 4:34 PM WDIO.com

A barge with a drilling crew has been out in the Rouchleau Pit in Virginia since May, and also did work last summer.

Just this week, a second barge was out in the pit. The crews are working 24/7, gathering soil and rock samples, and using seismic waves to measure the material under the water.

"It's very challenging. First, you're on a barge, and you're protecting the environment. Second, the material we're working with makes for extremely difficult drilling. Some of it's very hard, and then you have sand and gravel," explained Marty Vadis, a geological engineer for Idea Drilling.

Despite the challenges, MnDOT told us that work is moving faster than expected, according to the Assistant Project Manager Andy Johnson.

MnDOT is using the information gathered by the drillers to determine if a road can be built through the pit, and if so, what kind. 

They are required to move the current Highway 53, so Cliffs Natural Resources can mine under it.  The deadline is May of 2017, but MnDOT has acknowledged they are not likely going to meet that deadline because of how long it's taking to get all of the answers about the proposed routes.

Vadis said most of the drilling crews really enjoy this work, because it's close to home. Some of their drilling sites are out of state.

MnDOT said more barges and equipment will be on-site soon, when the test bridge foundations go into the pit. That's expected to begin in August.

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