New bridge may spark tourism in NE Minnesota

Published 8:02 am Monday, September 18, 2017

VIRGINIA — Officials in northeastern Minnesota believe a new highway bridge can spark economic development and help tourism by providing an entryway into the city of Virginia.

The 1,100-foot long U.S. Highway 53 bridge on the Iron Range sits more than 200 feet above the Rouchleau Pit, an old mine pit, Minnesota Public Radio reported .

“It really is an engineering marvel,” said Virginia Mayor Larry Cuffe Jr.

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Jim Makowsky, the general manager of two area hotels, said he thinks the bridge will be a tourist attraction. A popular bike trail will also cross the bridge, he said.

“You’ll be able to bike over the bridge; you’ll be able to drive your snowmobile across the bridge,” he said. “Where else in the country can you do that?”

The bridge was built after mining company Cliffs Natural Resources told the state seven years ago that the highway had to be moved so the company could access iron ore underneath the road. The company, which is now called Cleveland Cliffs, wanted to expand its United Taconite mine in order to get to ore underneath the highway.