Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

News Release

June 2, 2014

Orange barrels on a highway

MnDOT announces Hwy 53 relocation timing

DULUTH, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Transportation today reported that it may need more time for the Highway 53 relocation to allow for further analysis of potential routes.

“We have been working very hard to develop the project to get it done by 2017,” said Duane Hill, MnDOT District 1 engineer. “However, we have found that the best route options have some of the most difficult geologic conditions we’ve ever encountered.”

Conditions such as air quality, extremely hard rock and the potential of other mineable minerals have required more investigation to determine possible effects on building a road, he said.

“We need to do a very thorough job analyzing this and anticipating potential problems,” Hill said. “This new alignment needs to last a very long time. The extra time now, while difficult, allows us to ensure the roadway has a long, productive life.”

MnDOT will conduct another set of tests in the mine pit this summer that should provide more definitive information on what sort of foundations will work. Once the results of that work are known, Hill said MnDOT should have a firm idea of time and schedule.

Highway 53 currently sits on land owned by mining companies. In 1960, MnDOT obtained easement rights to the land with the agreement that it would move the highway off the land within three years’ notice. In 2010, United Taconite and RGGS Land and Minerals, the companies with the mining rights, notified MnDOT that they needed to mine under the road. The companies allowed MnDOT seven years, instead of three, to relocate the road.

MnDOT is working closely with the mine companies on the issues around a schedule change.

“We greatly appreciate the schedule concerns the land owner and mining companies have,” Hill said. “We are working hard to find solutions to the issues that satisfy everyone’s needs.”

For more information, visit the project website: www.dot.state.mn.us/d1/projects/hwy53relocation.