The Highway 53 Relocation Project, located between Eveleth and Virginia in northern Minnesota, began construction in November of 2015. This 3.1 mile project was necessary because the current roadway lies on top of iron ore deposits that will be mined in the future by United Taconite, a subsidiary of Cliff’s Natural Resources. According to a decades old agreement, MnDOT is required to relocate the road. The relocation will be permanent. Starting at the south end of the project, heading north, motorists will find an access change at Vermillion Drive. Northbound traffic will be able to enter and exit Highway 53 with right turns only. Southbound traffic will also be able to access Vermillion Drive with a left turn entrance. At Cuyuna Drive, traffic will be able to exit and enter only northbound Highway 53 through a right turn entry point. There will be no southbound access. These changes will improve safety at these intersections. The highway 53 reconstruction will start just north of the Cuyuna Drive intersection, and will be east of the existing highway. [music] The new interchange at Highway 135 and Highway 53 will be a grade separated, standard diamond interchange. A concrete median barrier will divide the northbound from southbound traffic. Roadway lighting starts in this location. A local visual quality citizens committee helped develop the bridge’s aesthetic design. The metal cut out detailing, stone treatments, and coloring of the bridge finishes were additions made by the committee. There will be a separate landscaping project in 2018 to finish the project. A concrete median barrier continues throughout the interchange and ramps area and onto the new high bridge. Flashing warning beacons will alert approaching motorists of the Landfill Road intersection. The beacons will help to reduce traffic conflict and improve safety at this site. There will be a gap in the concrete median barrier at Landfill Road to allow access in all directions between Highway 53 and Landfill Road. There will also be a new trail connection with the existing Mesabi Trail in the southeast portion of the Landfill Road intersection. The new Mesabi trail will be both gravel and paved with a fence and a guardrail in between the two. It will be on the east side of the highway. The fence will separate pedestrians, bicyclists, and snowmobiles and provide greater safety on the trail. Construction of the new roadway requires an extensive rock cut to the bridge approach. Significant efforts were made to minimize rock excavation to help control project costs As part of the solution, the project plan pulled the Mesabi trail closer to the roadway and separated the trails with a 42 inch tall concrete barrier. There are two pedestrian plazas, one located on each end of the bridge. A viewing place and resting spot are included in these plazas. The east plaza will also contain a time capsule. The trail continues on the north side of the bridge. Trail users will take in dramatic views of the tree lined bluffs and surrounding landscape. [music] The new bridge is a steel girder bridge with a concrete roadway. It has two concrete piers anchored into bedrock. The bridge has a design life of 100 years. Additions such as using stainless steel reinforcing bars to strengthen the bridge deck make the long design life possible. The storm water runoff from the bridge is carried to a storm water system that keeps it from draining into the Rouchleau Pit, which is the drinking water source for the City of Virginia. In the winter, MnDOT plows will push the snow to the rails of the bridge, not over the side. They will return after the snow event to load the snow in trucks and haul it to a remote snow storage area away from the Rouchleau Pit. The footings for the western pier were poured in March which required more than 700 cubic yards of concrete. Rock excavation for the west abutment was completed in early May. Both piers and abutments will be finished this fall. All steel beams will be installed during the fall and early winter of 2016. Providing access for the construction team to the eastern pier foundation was a major concern early in the project. Crews built an earthen causeway or access road spanning the old mine pit. This provided the necessary space for staging areas for equipment to construct the east pier and the bridge over the Rouchleau Pit. This required moving more than 300,000 cubic yards of fill, most of which was waste rock located near the project. When construction is complete, the access road will remain in place for future bridge maintenance. There will be no public access to the road. [music] The new highway 53 bridge requires more than 10 million pounds of U.S. made structural steel. When finished, the bridge will be more than 200 feet high and one of the tallest in Minnesota. [music] The project is being constructed and managed using a process called Construction Manager/General Contractor or CMGC. The prime contractor is Kiewit, a well-respected construction and engineering firm. The project also relies on more than 27 local sub-contractors on the job, which are bringing $41 million back into the local economy. Coming into Virginia, the new roadway ties into the existing alignment. There will be a new intersection at 2nd Avenue West, which will have a traffic signal and dedicated turn lanes. You can see the existing Highway 53 roadbed to the left of the intersection as you approach. By the fall of 2017, the project team will open the new bridge to traffic and have removed the old highway infrastructure. Final work on the project, which includes landscaping and other minor work will conclude in the summer of 2018. To learn more about the project, visit the MNDOT project website.