Frequently asked questions
Why is the Hwy 53 realignment necessary?
MnDOT does not own the property under the highway. The roadway is there by highway easement rights granted by US Steel in 1960. On May 5, 2010, Cliffs Natural Resources and RGGS (land owner), the successors to US Steel, notified MnDOT that Hwy 53 easement rights across the United Taconite Mine would be terminated.
What is the current project cost?
Total project cost is about $230 million. The cost of construction in that total cost is about $156 million.
Where will the money come from?
The state of Minnesota will using bond authority for $200 million of the project and MnDOT will use $30 million in federal funding.
What is the new timeline?
Construction begins in November 2015. The new road and bridge will be open to traffic in November 2017.
The schedule will be updated as the engineering evolves and issues are resolved.
How will the project schedule be expedited?
The schedule was expedited by doing several activities concurrently.
- Environmental Impact Statement (concurrent FEIS/ROD)
- Easements negotiations
- Design factors to include rapid construction techniques
- Construction Manager/General Contractor construction
- Accelerated construction methods
Will Hwy 53 be closed before the new road and bridge are open?
MnDOT will continue to expedite the schedule during construction. The intent is to not close the old alignment of Hwy 53 until the new one is open.
What is the current status of the project and what are next steps?
All of the environmental work has been completed. A contractor who will build the project will be announced in early November. Work will commence in early November 2015.
Is moving the highway more expensive than buying the land under the current Hwy 53 alignment?
No. Based on preliminary studies conducted by MnDOT using publicly available data about mine operations and local geology, MnDOT currently believes the economic value of the iron ore body underneath Hwy 53 is substantially greater than the cost of building a new Hwy 53 alignment.
Does iron ore resources exist underneath the Midway Area?
The Midway Area does not sit above iron ore resources. There will be no relocations in the Midway Area due to mining efforts.
Will the Mesabi Trail be impacted and what is the future of the trail system?
MnDOT has worked with Mesabi Trail officials to coordinate design of the new trail with the highway relocation project. The trail will be reconnected when the relocation project is done.
What will happen to the city of Virginia’s water supply because of the project?
The city’s water supply will be unaffected by the Hwy 53 relocation. The E-2 Route will include a bridge over the pit. All runoff from that bridge will be collected and diverted away from the water.
MnDOT and the city of Virginia will also move city sewer and water lines that are near the right-of-way for the current Hwy 53.
How can I stay informed of project progress?
This website will continue to provide project information updates. When visiting this project website, look for the “Email updates for this project” link on the homepage to register for MnDOT email updates. Once registered, MnDOT will send emails to you when new project information or news is available.