Discovered Indigenous Remains Continue To Delay Duluth I-35 Project ‘Indefinitely’
The Minnesota Department Of Transportation confirmed on October 30 that the I-35 Interchange project continues to be delayed due to an unanticipated discovery of human remains found in February, WDIO reports.
The site has been closed off since February 2023.
Workers found a human bone that was deemed to be Indigenous. The Minnesota Indian Affairs Council has had the site cordoned off since the remains were found. This has caused delays in connecting Highway 53 to I-35 and work on the Blatnik Bridge.
Discovery triggered Minnesota's Private Cemeteries Act and federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and MNDOT's Unanticipated Discovery Project Plan.
A plan was put in place for the project before it began. The plan puts a stop on work to avoid additional burial disturbances. Security is bolstered, and tribal nations are informed of the find, according to the Pioneer Press.
Because of the delays, MNDOT has shifted its work to other parts of the project, such as the opening of 21st Avenue West. They hope that they can get Piedmont Avenue down to 21st Avenue completed and open by November 2024. (That's a year from now.)
Highway 53 to I-35 is delayed "indefinitely."
When the remains were discovered, MNDOT hoped that the project would stay on track for the connection to be completed by November 2023. Two weeks ago, the Blatnik Bridge was supposed to be closed to Duluth-bound traffic. The night before the closure, MNDOT announced they would be pushing the closure out two more weeks "to give the public time to anticipate the changes." As of October 31st, the bridge is still open in both directions.
Here are the upcoming traffic changes from the I-35 Interchange Project page from MNDOT:
- Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023 - The Highway 53 ramp onto the I-535 Blatnik Bridge will close from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Traffic will be detoured via Grand Avenue to North 5th Street (WIS 35) Hammond Avenue. Motorists traveling from Superior can also cross at the Bong Bridge.
- I-35 southbound traffic is single lane. Motorists should expect delays. Northbound is open to two lanes. I-35 will be open to four lanes beginning the first week of November (weather permitting).
- Michigan Street remains closed between 20th Ave. West and 23rd Ave West.
Traffic to and from Port Terminal Drive is being detoured onto Helberg Drive through the 2023 construction season.
- 20th Ave. West between West 3rd Street and 19th Ave. West remains closed.
All ramps to Hwy 53 and I-535 are closed.
How long can the project be delayed?
Officials are saying that the work is delayed indefinitely. Another recent project - The Highway 23 Mission Creek Project, was halted in 2017 after indigenous human remains were found. MNDOT worked with the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council to respectfully complete burial recovery and restore the cemetery site. The work is ongoing 6 years later.
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