Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN8) jumped into the debate over the new route for Highway 53, strongly opposing the western route proposal that resurfaced late last week. The Mesabi Daily News reports that Nolan called the proposal a “nonstarter.”
The public meeting described in the story sounded like a good representation of the local opinion I’ve heard on the topic. Nobody really wants the highway to be relocated; they’d like it to stay the same. Only problem is, public officials agreed to move the highway at taxpayer expense 50 years ago.
The obvious fixes run into other mine property and future mining areas. Several of the proposed routes involve elaborate bridges built near mining activity. Our region’s dependence on mining has run into a logistical wall.
I was intrigued by a quote from the MDN story from what appears to be a wider-ranging discussion of Range transportation projects.
State Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, asked, “At what point do we become more important than rocks?”
The context of this quote isn’t exactly clear, but it seems like a step in the right direction. Still phrased as a question, mind you. Let’s step over that line now and just say: We are more important than rocks.
Ahhhh. Feels good, am I right?
In all seriousness, it seems like this is all going back to talks between the state and Cliffs Natural Resources, the owner and operator of the mine in question. It would appear that the choices are an unpopular plan to reroute the highway, thus dramatically reshaping the economic and transportation flow of two major Range cities, or a road that has to be moved at taxpayer expense 40-50 years from now.
Which one do you think is going to go?