September 15, 2017 09:44 PM
MnDOT announced Friday morning that the new roadway alignment of the Highway 53 Relocation project will open to traffic sometime later this weekend instead of Friday night.
But the planned dedication event underneath the tallest bridge in Minnesota went on without a hitch.
Lt. Governor Tina Smith, who spoke at the groundbreaking nearly two years ago, said, "This project took a village. And it took an Iron Range village to do this. I can't think of a better place to be, than under this beautiful, iconic bridge that connects this part of the state for decades and decades."
She also broke a ceremonial bottle of wine on one of the bridge piers. It was from Robert Mondavi, who was born in Virginia.
Other elected leaders spoke as well. Congressman Rick Nolan praised the trades and the use of American made steel. State senator Dave Tomassoni added, "I think this is a fine monument to the mining industry and what it represents."
Kiewit leaders also addressed the crowd. Will White said, "This project was about partnerships and collaboration. I can tell you the community embraced Kiewit, embraced the group, and it was a fantastic community to work with."
About 200 people came to the public dedication. Some worked on the massive venture, which is now the tallest bridge in Minnesota. Others watched, waited, and took detours.
Joseph Caulfield and his wife Kathy made sure to come and check out the bridge. "We had to come. It's an unbelievable accomplishment. It's exciting to be part of this," Joseph told us.
Kathy added, "And the Kiewit personnel we ran into at restaurants and stores, they were the kindest people you've ever known."
Three young women from the Iron Range Engineering program also stopped by.
Mckenzie Schreffler said, "I think it's huge they are using U.S. steel."
Her fellow students, Nikkie Jaeger and Brielle Wills, chimed in too. Jaeger added, "Just glad to be here today, to be part of history,"
Wills said, "I think it's significant for our history and the future of the Iron Range here."
MnDOT had really hoped to open the road Friday night. But rain in the forecast for Saturday made that impossible. Project Director Pat Huston said, "We won't be able to safely make the connections if the roadway is wet and visibility is hampered by the rain."
Huston said project staff will monitor the weather and get the work done as soon as it is feasible. If the weather stays dry, he said the road could open late Saturday or early Sunday. The intersection of S. 2nd Ave. W should open early next week. The new interchange connecting the Highway 53 and Highway 135 should open mid-week.
"We've worked very hard to get the road finished," he said. "We expect the road will open within the next several days."
Huston added that the Mesabi Trail will likely open near the end of the month.
MnDOT has until mid November to remove the current Highway 53, so United Taconite can mine through that area.
Updated: September 15, 2017 09:44 PM
Created: September 15, 2017 09:03 AM
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