2016 promises expansion of Cross-Range Expressway

Iron Range newsOver the years I’ve written a great deal about the cross-Range expressway, a vision of a four-lane highway that spans the entirety of the Mesabi Iron Range. It was the furtive promise of highway officials back during the Lyndon Johnson Administration, largely unrealized because of massive funding and land-rights issues. In summary: it’s hard to build a really expensive highway across a landscape constantly being blown up for minerals.

I’ve mentioned before that my earliest consciousness of politics was my grandfather talking about a very unpopular vote he took as a one-term Keewatin City Councilor in the 1960s to accept the bypass of Old Highway 169, which used to run through every little town on the Mesabi. The carrot was the idea of a sleek, modern four-lane road connecting Grand Rapids to Hibbing. Well, in 2014 that promise has yet to be realized, and you’d better believe my grandpa has not forgotten.

Last weekend, we learned more about the plan to add another 1.5 miles to the “Cross-Range Expressway,” extending the current four-lane from Taconite to the turnoff to Itasca County’s Scenic Highway 7. While this pleases me to no end (The Scenic is my turnoff when driving to and from Grand Rapids), it leaves the stretch from Marble to Pengilly as a busy, winding two-lane buttressed on both sides by U.S. Steel-controlled land.

That last section will be a doozy.

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