MnDOT narrows options in Hwy 53 reroute environmental study
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Transportation today announced that it will not include a west route alternative in a key forthcoming environmental decision regarding the Hwy 53 re-route near Virginia.
“Our examination of the alternative routes and preliminary engineering has led us to this point,” said MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle. “The west route, though viable, will likely have the greatest community, environmental and economic impacts. We know enough, now, to be able put it on the shelf and put more work into the other alternatives.”
The westerly route would run from the south junction of Hwy 37 to the west, then north along County Road 7. It would rejoin Hwy 53 on the west side of Virginia.
The action means that the westerly route, W-1A, will not be included in the department’s amended scoping decision document, which will be published Aug.30. The alternative will be available if subsequent study determines all other alternatives are not feasible, although MnDOT considers that unlikely.
The amended scoping decision document will include two no-build options, a buyout and a road closure, as well as routes identified as M-1, E-2 and E-1A. These routes will continue to be studied. Results from the study will be carried into the next step in the process, the draft environmental impact statement, which is scheduled to be published in summer 2014. MnDOT expects the final environmental impact statement will be completed in early 2015.
Hwy 53 needs to be relocated by May 2017. Cliffs Natural Resources, a local mining operation, has rights to minerals under the road because of a 1960 easement agreement and anticipates it will need access to those resources soon.
“I appreciate that this has been a challenging time for many,” Zelle added. “We want to thank everyone who has assisted with our study efforts as well as our public information meetings. We know this process, while uncomfortable for some, will provide us with the best information on which to base our decisions.”
Further information on the project, including layouts, is available on the project website at mndot.gov/d1/projects/hwy53relocation/index.html.