highway 53 project at halfway point

Iron workers make sure that a set of steel beams weighing in at 750,000 pounds come to rest exactly where they should on the Highway 53 bridge being built in Virginia Wednesday.

VIRGINIA — The Highway 53 bridge could one day be called...umm, Bridgy McBridge Face?

Well, perhaps maybe not.

But it is one of Beth Pierce’s favorites of the silly submissions to the Iron Range Tourism Bureau’s Name the Bridge Contest.

The contest, however, is not silly at all.

The winning entry could actually one day become the official name of Minnesota’s tallest bridge. The 1,100-foot-long structure spanning the Rouchleau mine pit lake more than 200 feet below is scheduled to be completed in August.

That’s right. You could name the bridge — and win a $100 gift certificate, to boot.

Pierce, IRTD director, said she announced the contest on social media June 13, and there were 130 entries within an hour and a half; 400 by the end of the day.

Anyone can enter by visiting bridgedaze.com. Silly names are allowed, but IRTD asks to “keep things positive.” The contest will run through July 15.

The top five entries will be chosen by a community group, and then the public will have the chance to vote. If there are multiple submissions of the same name that becomes a top contender, the first one entered will be chosen.

Pierce said there currently about 800 submissions.

Some people think the bridge should honor the memory of a person who played a significant role on the Range — former U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, the beloved Virginia resident Marty Biondich, or former 8th District Rep. James Oberstar.

“There are many local references,” Pierce said. Other entries include: North Country, Taconite Sky Bridge, Quad City Bridge, Mineview Pass, Mineview Connection, Mesabi Tall Bridge, and Ranger High Bridge.

“The bridge has to be officially named by a legislator,” so it won’t be until the next Legislative session, which starts in February, Pierce said. “The bill to name the bridge will be based on the submission, but it ultimately has to be voted on to be official.”

But there is a good chance the name that “wins by popular vote” in the Name the Bridge Contest will make it all the way to the official designation.

An entire Bridge Daze celebration will be held in August, including a barbecue at Olcott Park and a Community Walk across the bridge.

Participants in the walk have the distinction of being the first to traverse the segment of Mesabi Trail that traverses the bridge. The Aug. 20 event will begin at Franklin Addition at the end of Chestnut Street in Virginia. A shuttle will be provided for those not wanting to walk back, Pierce said.

There will be water, snacks and music. The first 100 people to register at bridgedaze.com will receive a T-shirt. And Above the Range will take a drone image available for a free download.

It’s an exciting time coming up with the bridge — several years in the making – finally coming to fruition, Pierce said.

So — be creative, she said. Get your thinking cap on and help name the bridge.

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