One of the reasons the Highway 53 bridge project garners so much attention is that, for Iron Rangers, everything that happens on Highway 53 matters. It’s one of the two major highways that connects the band of communities that comprise the Range.
The other major Iron Range highway is 169. Though also listed as a north/south route, Highway 169 acts as the west-to-east passageway for this 140-mile swath of 110-year-old mining towns.
Right in the middle of the region Highway 169 barrels through Bob Dylan’s hometown of Hibbing, highlighting a weird blend of commercial and industrial real estate.
Sixty years ago, city leaders sought to avoid being bypassed by the sleek new four-lane highway. They established the highway along what they though would be the “edge” of town. But then suburban style development patterns took hold and the town jumped the highway, creating a rather haphazard appearance. Most motorists wouldn’t realize they’re passing through a town that was once the richest city north of Minneapolis.
The busiest intersection on 169 in Hibbing is the one where the highway pivots 90 degrees while meeting Highway 37. Most commuters, including myself, spend time at this intersection every day.
Engineers have decided that having all that traffic parked at a light is bad. They’re putting in a roundabout in 2017.
Here’s what it looks like:
While some Northern Minnesota towns like Grand Rapids have embraced roundabouts in recent developments, it’s rare in Mesabi Iron Range towns. Thousands of Rangers will use a roundabout for the first time when this thing goes live.
This idea isn’t new. A roundabout was proposed for this intersection in the late 1990s. Back then, the idea was deemed unworkable because of the volume of traffic.
There will be a public meeting to discuss the new roundabout this Thursday, Feb. 4, at 6:30 p.m. at the Hibbing City Council chambers at City Hall, 401 East 21st Street.
What do you think of putting a roundabout at Highway 169 and Highway 37 in Hibbing?