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.
Eagles Nest Township
and Minneapolis, Minn.