Consider less costly highway upgrades

The saga of “pave it – not save it” continues to mystify or not (“MnDOT to reconsider ‘southern option’ for Hwy. 169) when special interests are involved in public policy.

MnDOT was quoted in your recent article as “taking a second look.” But the story line didn’t give any particular reasons for doing so, besides objections put forward by an outside group. Does MnDOT now have evidence which legitimately overrides scientific evidence of environmental damage from sulfide oxidation resulting from the removal of 250,000 cubic yards of high sulfide mineralization? And what evidence is there in the argument from the objecting group that their preferred route would be safer? And safer from what? And more to the point: this euphemistically-titled “group” is what? An elected representative body? A selected group of environmental and transportation experts? Or is it nothing more than what it appears to be — an interest group with an agenda (hidden?) constituted to sway public policy to its own ends?

I would offer two point concerning the vacillation coming out of MnDOT. One, the risk of sulfide contamination resulting from extensive mineral exposure is too great to leave to the whim of special interests. The entire watershed in the Vermilion region would be threatened by this contamination if the Hwy. 169 improvement task force’s objections were to override scientific evidence. Eagles Nest Township and lakes would bear the immediate brunt of such an assault. The damage, however, would not be confined there alone. Lake Vermilion receives water directly from rivers and streams from Eagles Nest, Armstrong, and other lakes. Simply doing “what we’ve always done” will not suffice. It’s time for responsible land stewardship, not hide-bound interests emanating from Ely, to guide the future of the region. Second, I have maintained in the past that Hwy. 169 is not suitable in places for a speed of 55 mph. MnDOT public announcements to that effect support my case. Yet, traffic behavior does not accept that fact. Along with irresponsible mobile phone usage, driving under the influence, not driving according to conditions (i.e. not slowing down in snow and ice), driving faster than the posted speed is a recipe for disaster. Next time you are out on the road, maintain 55 mph and observe the many drivers passing you.

Yes. Improve Hwy. 169 so safety is improved. But we don’t need to spend $13 or $19 million to do so. I believe if concern for my two points above was emphasized— and not what this “task force” seems to represent— then the public interest would truly be served.

John Sinks

Eagles Nest Township

and Minneapolis, Minn.

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3 comments on this item

Ah hah, another packsacker trying to impose his will on northeastern Minnesota residents. John Boy, start by cleaning up the filth, pollution and excessive urban sprawl in the Twin Cities before you come up here telling us multi-generational locals what to do.

I'm sad to see the vitriol this road project is causing, and, being a direct recipient of a share of it, I would much prefer to see the facts in this case be the focus. The one question no one seems to be asking is this: What are the reasons the 169 Task Force is being so insistent? What is the hidden agenda? I keep asking if the placement of the Mesabi Bike Trail is involved, and the fact that the Task Force promised a portion of the existing 169 roadbed years ago. THAT is why they are so dead set - the southerly route means unimpeded bike trail. Oddly, when I make these assertions, no one from the Task Force steps in to deny that agenda. Why? We can solve this all in an afternoon by have a MNDOT, engineer, the EPA, The DNA, the task force and concerned citizens WALK the southerly route to see for themselves the implausability and the obstacles, the cliffs to be blasted and the environmental uproar all would cause. At this stage, with the legislative ammendment stunt pulled by the task force, THEY are the hold up on the road project going through in the manner and timeliness most beneficial, sane and safe - as long as they draw this out, more accidents are waiting to happen.

I'm with you Sarah, just as long as no money is spent on a bicycle trail. If Bicyclists want a trail, let them come up with the funds themselves, not money robbed from the Highway Transportation Trust Fund. Those of who drive autos and trucks pay enough, bicyclists have proven to be free-loaders up to this point, thanks to Oberstar with his little helmet and spandex pants.

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