Another delay for a safer 169

Last week MnDOT silently announced another delay in the reconstruction of Highway 169 in the Eagles Nest area. After this move, we’re wondering if we will ever see this project become reality.
We’ve gone 20 years so far with local leaders pushing for a safer highway. With their pleas falling on deaf ears, representatives from Ely went to Washington D.C. and found a sympathetic ear in then-Congressman Jim Oberstar.
He was able to procure $20 million for the project with hopes the project could see the light of day by the end of the decade. We’re now looking at the third decade coming to a close as this project MAY finally see the light of day.
What was supposed to be built in 2016 has now been pushed back to 2017. That means we’ve got another 1,000+ days of driving an unsafe highway in poor condition that is extremely susceptible to black ice during certain times of the year.
This time the delay was MnDOT failing to meet the requirements of the federal highway administration as to what alternatives to include in the project.
Now in addition to the current route, the preferred south route and the do nothing alternative, we’re thinking MnDOT should include re-opening the railroad line between Soudan and Ely.
As we’ve pointed out before the south route is on top of the hill with more than double the passing miles, half the shaded area and will reduce crashes on the highway by 40 percent, that’s 33 percent better than the middle route. Shoulders would also be two feet wider (eight versus six feet), a safety feature that is much-needed on this road.
Twenty years have passed and still we don’t know where the road will go or when it will be built. At this rate a pyramid could’ve been constructed faster.
Our thanks to the local leaders and elected officials who have stuck to their guns on this project. We’re just hoping they all live long enough to see it through to completion.