Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

News Release

Sept. 15, 2017

Community dedicates realigned Hwy 53, new bridge in Virginia

VIRGINIA, Minn. – Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Minnesota Congressman Rick Nolan were among the many who traveled to Virginia today to mark the completion of the Highway 53 Relocation project. Shortly after 11 a.m., officials cut a ribbon under the bridge and announced that the new roadway and bridge were ready for service.

“I thank everyone who worked so long and hard to build this incredible new bridge,” said Governor Mark Dayton. “This phenomenal success is a great tribute to the project's workers, Range leaders and MnDOT team. All of Minnesota will benefit from your efforts for many years to come.”

The $156 million project includes more than three miles of new, four-lane roadway and a 1,100 foot long bridge that is one of the highest state-owned bridges in Minnesota. The bridge is a steel beam design with a concrete deck. The new alignment of the Mesabi Trail recreation facility runs along the roadway right of way and crosses the pit on the bridge.

“This bridge represents new opportunities for Range businesses, families, and communities, including new options for transportation and recreation,” said Lt. Governor Smith. “I thank the workers who put thousands of hours into the construction of the bridge, as well as the partnership of Cliffs Natural Resources and RGGS Land & Minerals, for making this project a reality.” 

The bridge spans the Rouchleau Pit, an abandoned iron ore mine on the south side of Virginia. Construction was challenged by rock waste left from mining as well as some of the hardest rock encountered in Minnesota. More than 100 construction workers labored for a total of 165,000 hours over two years to build the structure, moving hundreds of thousands of yards of soil and rock to build the new roadway. Crews drilled and installed thousands of feet of steel piling, anchored into bedrock to create a sturdy foundation for the bridge.

The project was necessary because the original roadway was built on mining property. More than 50 years ago, the mining interests that owned the land agreed to let the state build a roadway, provided the transportation agency would move the road if the mining company needed to get to the ore.

In 2010, the mining company alerted MnDOT that it needed to access the ore. MnDOT developed a plan to move the road by 2017.

For photos and background information, see project website at: www.dot.state.mn.us/d1/projects/hwy53relocation.