Frequently asked questions
Why is the Hwy 53 realignment being planned?
MnDOT does not own the property the highway is located on; it 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, provided notice to MnDOT that Hwy 53 easement rights across the United Taconite Mine would be terminated.
What is the current status of the project and what are next steps?
The Scoping Decision Document published in September 2012 narrowed the alternatives to two build and two no-build. These four alternatives were being carried forward into a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). During ongoing, in-depth study of the easterly alternative, MnDOT identified issues that have increasingly raised concerns about the project budget. These issues have caused MnDOT to reopen the scoping process to study additional alternatives. Studying additional alternatives will ensure that the final project balances environmental, social and economic issues, along with application of sound engineering principles and cost.
Public feedback, including a public hearing, ultimately results in decisions about which alternative(s) should be carried forward in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. Analysis of all alternatives will include preliminary design development and evaluation, including assessment of potential social, economic and environmental impacts and proposed mitigation. A new schedule is being developed for the project and will be posted in the near future.
How will community input be provided?
MnDOT is providing a variety of opportunities for community input:
- Public open houses and public hearings will be held at key milestones during the project to allow public input as part of MnDOT’s decision-making process.
- A Project Advisory Committee (PAC) has been formed with a variety of community and agency leaders to represent the public interest. The PAC will meet over the course of the project.
- MnDOT also plans for small group meetings to discuss specific topics (for example, business or recreational trail impact meetings with stakeholder representatives).
- Roberta Dwyer is MnDOT’s project manager. She may be contacted directly to provide your input or questions. Roberta can be reached at (218) 725-2781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is moving the highway more expensive than buying the land under the current Hwy 53 alignment?
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 bodies underneath Hwy 53 is substantially greater than the cost of building a new Hwy 53 alignment.
Why are alternatives being studied?
The federal NEPA process requires that all build and no-build alternatives be addressed in the EIS. All alternatives have environmental, social and economic advantages and disadvantages that are being studied as part of the EIS process.
Does iron ore resources exist underneath the Midway Area?
The Midway Area does not sit above iron ore resources; no relocations of Midway Area residential or business properties are expected as a result of mine operations.
Why did MnDOT consider a West Corridor Alternative?
As part of the early investigation of project alternatives, the west corridor offered the opportunity to locate Hwy 53 where no iron ore bodies exist. This would eliminate the potential for needing to relocate Hwy 53 again in the future due to mining operations.
Will the Mesabi Trail be impacted and what is the future of the trail system?
The majority of the trail system is on lands owned by RGGS. It is likely that the trail will require relocation due to future mining. No decisions on the relocation of the trail can be made until the selection of a new route for Hwy 53 is complete.
What will happen to the city of Virginia’s water supply if the E-2 Route is selected?
The city’s water supply will be unaffected by the relocation of Hwy 53. If the E-2 Route is selected, the pit will be bridged and all runoff collected. No water or debris from the roadway would be allowed to enter the pit.
Will my property be acquired for the relocation of Hwy 53?
The current alternatives are conceptual to allow for early comparison of potential impacts during the Scoping phase of this project. MnDOT is not able to determine whether properties will be acquired with this level of information. As part of the EIS process, the most promising alternatives will be developed with more engineering detail to help identify more precisely the potential impacts, including potential property acquisitions.
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.
Economic Impact Study
What are the objectives of the Economic Impact Study?
The study will collect and analyze data to articulate the range of economic impacts associated with each alternative under consideration including; E-1, E-2, M-1, W-1, and the No-Build condition. The study outcomes will be incorporated into the Highway 53 Relocation Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).
Why did MnDOT decide to undertake this study now?
As noted above, the Highway 53 Relocation Project is proceeding through the DEIS process, which includes an assessment of the potential social, economic, and environmental effects of a proposed action. Given the differences between the alternatives under consideration, MnDOT determined that a detailed economic analysis would be prudent to assist in facilitating the decision-making process.
What type of information is being collected and analyzed?
The study will assess economic impacts on the local and regional economy such as effects of each alternative on employment, retail sales, tourism, increased travel costs, emergency response and business impacts (including direct and indirect effects on existing and future mining operations).
Who is completing the Economic Impact Study?
MnDOT is leading the Economic Impact Study and has hired Short Elliott Hendrickson (SEH) and the McComb Group Ltd. to gather the technical data and complete the economic impact analysis for the range of alternatives under consideration. The Laurentian Chamber of Commerce is also an active partner in gathering and disseminating information as well as coordinating meetings with specific business groups.
What is the timeline for completing the Economic Impact Study?
The economic study is anticipated to extend from June 2013 to October 2013. Frequent updates and sharing of information will occur throughout the study process. Several individual business meetings, “Coffee & Conversation” update meetings, and open houses will be held over the course of the study process.