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Environmental Concerns Slow Highway Safety Upgrade

Flickr, Dougtone

ELY, (AP) – A long-awaited safety project for Highway 169 in northeastern Minnesota has been slowed by environmental concerns – the same type of concerns dogging proposed copper-nickel mines in the region.

At issue is potential water pollution along a stretch between Ely and the Iron Range.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation backed moving the highway about a quarter mile to the south. But environmental regulators raised concerns, partly because it would require blasting millions of tons of rock that’s high in sulfur. When exposed to air and water, it creates sulfuric acid.

MnDOT has drawn up a compromise to keep the highway in its existing corridor but straighten out more dangerous curves than an earlier proposal. Officials plan to have it ready for public comment next year.

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