People who were holding out hope for a local contractor for the Highway 53 Relocation Project didn't get their wish.  Officials with the Minnesota Department of Transportation have announced the two contractors who will perform the work on what will become the biggest bridge in Minnesota when it's finished.

Colorado-based Kiewit Infrastructure Company was elected the Construction Manager/General Contractor for the project while Calfornia-based Parsons will handle other work - including design.

The project includes almost three miles of new four-lane road construction, a 1,100-foot bridge across the Rouchleau iron ore mining pit, a new interchange at Highway 53/Highway135, and utility and trail relocation. The total cost for the project, including construction, engineering, right of way, minerals, etc., is currently estimated at $180 million to $240 million. The cost will be refined as more engineering and design is completed.

Highway 53 within the project area is on land owned by a mining company that has been leasing the property to the state since 1960. The land owner and mine operator have given MnDOT notice that they will be terminating the easement rights in order to continue their mining operations – necessitating the highway relocation. To meet the deadline for relinquishing the current highway easements, MnDOT will build the new Highway 53 bridge on an accelerated schedule. Completion is slated for fall 2017.

The project currently is in the final environmental impact statement (EIS) process, which is anticipated to conclude fall 2015. There are three “build” and two “no-build” options in the EIS. MnDOT is proceeding to design the preferred alternative alignment known as E2 prior to the conclusion of the final EIS in order to meet the aggressive project deadline.

The naming of contractors makes this long-talked-about project more of a reality as the deadline approaches.