Highway 53 in Minnesota is the principal north-south route through the Mesabi Iron Range to the Lake Superior ports of Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin. In the city of Virginia, the highway bisects two open pit iron mines, so it required relocation for mining operation purposes by the fall of 2017 – mines that are extremely important to the economic well-being of the community.
MnDOT and its contractors began working on preliminary designs for the $167 million Highway 53 relocation in early 2015 and planned for an accelerated schedule. The accelerated schedule was met through a co-located design development approach that was able to deliver the 5,200 ton structural steel package in 52 days and the remainder of the road and bridge design in under eight months. An aggressive construction schedule was required to meet the deadlines to vacate the affected right of way or ROW. This process of a fully integrated Owner-Designer-Contractor team allowed MnDOT to successfully deliver the project on schedule, including the installation of a new three span, 1,130 foot long steel plate girder bridge spanning the Rouchleau iron mine over 200 feet above the floor of the open pit mine and associated roadworks. End result: Project completion occurred a month ahead of schedule and now allows the traveling public to navigate the area safety while enabling one of the area’s biggest industries to keep thriving.