Iron Range has 53 problems, mostly a highway

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, β€œAt 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?

Did you know I once wrote Herbie the Love Bug fan faction on this very topic? You should know that.


  1. It will be interesting to see if environmental politics or common sense applies to the public safety issue on Hwy 169 between Tower and Ely. The people should be more important than rocks.

    Ahhhh. Feels good, am I right?

  2. Bud, we should just end all our statements like that, eh?

    Ahhhh. Feels good, am I right?

    Very satisfying. πŸ™‚

  3. When the work on Hwy 53 from Virginia to Cook got started some years ago, costing millions of dollars, my friend often stated, “this new road wouldn’t be necessary if people would just obey the speed limit.”

    We have to always keep in mind that there are (almost) always more than two options in a situation. People or Rocks or ___. Environmental politics or common sense or ____. Seems to me that bad environmental policy is not common sense. And we need to serve the “long run” not just the short term politics.

  4. Interesting, I can never read the digits in the captcha codes, so for the last week, I’ve been typing random numbers and they have always worked.

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