Metsa submits Hwy 53 bill: "We have to take action"

State Rep. Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia) and State Sen. David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm) are taking direct action in response to the controversy over the required rerouting of Highway 53 on the Iron Range to accommodate expanding iron mining.

On Tuesday, Metsa announced he will be submitting an amendment to the transportation bill that specifically prohibits the least popular plan — one routing the highway west of Eveleth. That plan would effectively bypass that city, the Midway neighborhood of Virginia and put Gilbert farther off the main route of the Iron Range. As this idea would route Highway 53 through Iron Junction up what is now Highway 7, this plan would also dramatically change traffic flow through Virginia.

The remaining plans are more acceptable to local residents, but are very expensive or logistically difficult. One plan would put a bridge over Cliffs active mine pit for United Taconite, something the company says is unworkable. The other would follow the existing highway and then route around that big mine dump south of Virgina, entering town over a massive, approximately $200 million bridge across the Rocheleau pit.

The state is required to move the highway because of a 1960 agreement between it and the mines to allow the highway to be built there in the first place. The goal here is a workable highway that won’t have to be moved for a longer time period, if ever.

“Sen. Tomassoni, the rest of Range delegation and I have had many meetings on this topic,” Metsa told me last night. “We feel we’ve exhausted all other options. We’re down to the wire and we have to take action to protect our constituents and their concerns about bypassing Eveleth. As Congressman Nolan has said, we all feel that the western route is a nonstarter. Its effects would be devastating on the Quad Cities [Mt. Iron, Virginia, Eveleth and Gilbert] with ripples throughout the region. We have to take these measures.”

Metsa said he’s talked to Gov. Mark Dayton and the relevant committee chairs. He said all of them seem willing to accept the measure as a friendly amendment to the transportation bill now under debate in St. Paul. 


  1. What a dilemma. If the whole state has to pitch in to pay for an expensive bridge, we may not get funds for anything else for quite awhile. And do we want to put a bridge so close to where there could possibly be blasting for ore in the future?

    Hmmm, the secret word that I have to type is ACCIDENT.

  2. Go West Young Man applies here, it’s just a matter of time. It will be far from precedent setting. i.e. The Scenic Hwy once went right through Bovey and Taconite. Then it bypassed both Bovey and Taconite. Now the new Hwy 169 REALLY bypasses both towns. No need to even mention the total move of Hibbing.

    Now it’s time for Virginia & Eveleth to step up. That’s the way it is in the world of buggy whips to batteries & USPS to the Internet. Get over it Metsa..

  3. Isn’t it lovely how the mining companies care so much about the community.

  4. We’re on the same page cjh…the mining companies have cared enough over the years to put tens of thousands of kids, grandkids and great-grandkids though vo-techs and universities, not to mention building the greatest high school facilities in the country, which at one time attracted the best teachers money could buy.

    But that was back when parents in the communities appreciated the good paying jobs the mining industry provided. Not sure that’s the case today..

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