The process of relocating the southern approach of Highway 53 to Virginia continues to move along.   Minnesota Department Of Transportation officials will present the two current proposals to the public at a meeting today.

One of the two routes recommended for further study would shift the highway to the west and over the backfilled Auburn Pit. The other route would shift the highway east and north and over the water-filled Rouchleau Pit.

MNDOT needs to move the highway due to United Taconites notification that it intends to mine the area underneath - something that is allowed under terms of their easement.

In 1960, the state built the Virginia-area stretch of Highway 53 — which carried an average of 22,400 vehicles a day in 2009 — by obtaining an easement on mining company land. But the company kept the right to cancel the easement with at least three years’ notice.

In 2010, United Taconite informed the state that it needs to move about a mile of the four-lane highway between state Highway 135 and Second Avenue West in Virginia to make way for expansion of its mine pit.

Multiple alternative routes have been considered;  The state has now narrowed that field down to two.

Since receiving United Taconite’s notification, MnDOT has examined 11 possible new routes, along with the options of trying to acquire long-term rights to the current highway and of closing the highway and not building a replacement, forcing traffic onto existing roads.

A recently released draft scoping document narrowed the recommended list to two new routes and a possible attempt to acquire long-term rights to the current highway. The idea of not replacing the highway would also be evaluated for purposes of comparison in a draft Environmental Impact Statement.

To see a map of the routes and to learn more, click the link below.


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