169 project finally rolling

The official groundbreaking of the Highway 169 project finally took place Thursday morning. Nearly 20 years since the push started to make a safer highway and now we can see the results.
There were five original members of the Highway 169 Task Force on hand, one who came by wheelchair. Their patience for this project as well as their continued support is to be applauded. Thank you to Bill Erzar, Pete Davis, Mike Forsman, Greg Dostert and Rudy Semeja for your determination.
This project jumped more hurdles than it should have including some ridiculous blockages thrown forth by NIMBY opponents who increased the cost and in effect, reduced the benefits of the project and the safety of the final alignment.
We’d also be remiss if we didn’t thank the politicians who pushed to make this happen. From members of the Ely city council to Congressman Jim Oberstar and current federal officials Rick Nolan and Amy Klobuchar, there’s been strong support for the project in the public sector.
We were glad to hear Nolan comment on the extreme measures MnDOT has been pushed into for blasting rocks.
“If you had to get the EPA involved every time you moved a rock, there wouldn’t be a road in Northeastern Minnesota,” remarked Nolan. So true.
All of that is part of this story that for the general public leaves one question: When will it be done? If all goes as planned, we should be able to have smooth travels between Ely and Tower by July of 2018.
There will likely be delays during the construction process but no major detours are planned. For now we’ll just have to hope our fillings stay in as we travel along the original route. It sure will be nice to get this project completed.
A good portion of the original $20 million secured by Oberstar will go into the $16.5 million improvements. We’ll be able to get out of the swamp and up on top of the hill where the sun can melt the black ice in the winter months and save lives.
Thanks again to all who made this happen. You’ve made the end of the road a lot easier to get to and from. And a heckuva lot safer.