Highway 53 reroute a generational test for the Range

This Dan Kraker MPR story provides the clearest narrative I’ve seen yet as to the proposals and local reaction to the proposed rerouting of Highway 53 on Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range, something we’ve discussed here before.

The cheapest route would devastate many businesses and create a really mixed-up way of driving around the Quad Cities. The preferred route isn’t just expensive; it’s really, really expensive. 

The city of Virginia instead prefers to route the highway over the abandoned Rouchleau Pit, which is several hundred feet deep and partially filled with water. That option would require a bridge with piers over 200 feet tall, Dwyer said.

“This would be unique to Minnesota. A very similar bridge would be something like the bridge at Hoover Dam,” Dwyer said. “One of the advantages that people have seen is this would be a grand gateway into the city of Virginia.”

But an expensive gateway, at that. That route could cost as much as $160 million, MNDot reports. The state has set aside $60 million in bonding funds for the project so far, Dwyer said.

The Iron Range has a number of projects on its bonding wish list right now. Many colleges and communities across the region need help for their facilities. So getting this amount of money would require a great deal of unity and also sacrifice among local lawmakers. There also seems to be little appetite for such a huge endeavor without some help from Cliffs Natural Resources, the mining company whose agreement with the state is forcing this change in route.


  1. Not that I would agree with it – but isn’t the mine treading in dangerous area here? The state could just exercise their eminent domain power and not have to move the highway at all.

    Again – not that I support that idea, or even think the state should leverage that…but isn’t it something the mine should keep in mind when “contributing” to this discussion?

  2. The Rouchleau Causeway proposal (easterly route) deserves a closer look. Sure, it’s expensive, but it would preserve thousands of jobs and business already on the ground, plus allow Cliffs to expand its operations into the current easement. Not to mention all of the work created in the design and construction of the project. Talk about a jobs bill!

    Not least, if done right it would create for northbound travelers an even more majestic entrance into the region. It might even qualify as a National Historic Site, as it would highlight the origins of the Minnesota iron industry in an especially vivid way.

    For those hung up on cost, consider the dividends and the people who will share them. Interesting that we can get a stadium built (maybe) that most of us will never step inside.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.