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      Marquette officials discuss concerns of Rio Tinto truck route

      A truck route through the City of Marquette and Marquette Township brought both commissions together Thursday. They're looking for answers on how to handle the increase in semis from the Rio Tinto Mine in northern Marquette County.

      Seven years and $20 million later, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) put the brakes on permits to create County Road 595.

      The big rigs would've run between Rio Tinto's Mine in northern Marquette County and the Humboldt Processing Mill.

      "One of their biggest concerns was the environment, and that's why they turned it down," explains Marquette Mayor Johnny DePetro.

      Trucks will travel triple the distance through the City of Marquette and Marquette Township. Marquette city officials say the increase in truck traffic will damage the roads, and upgrades will be needed.

      Mayor DePetro explains that upgrades would cost approximately a "minimum of $6 million." The increased truck traffic could additionally delay planned road construction projects of $4.5 million through 2020.

      Marquette's city officials decided to hire an outside attorney to work on:

      *A public and private bypass

      *Road improvement negotiations

      *Update the current city truck route

      *Tighten the current truck ordinance

      Rio Tinto will make 50 trips a day, equaling 36,500 trips in a year, through the intersection of Sugarloaf Avenue and Wright Street. Northern Michigan University representatives say this raises big concerns about the safety of their students.

      "At class change time, which is about 10 minutes between classes, we have a significant amount of vehicle traffic, as well as pedestrian traffic, crossing the intersection," explains Art Gischia, Vice President of Administration.

      "We now look forward to working with local communities to upgrade existing roads, and particularly the City of Marquette, to provide improvements within the city, or potentially safety improvements, as that planning process progresses," says Rio Tinto??s External Affairs Manager, Matt Johnson.

      Rio Tinto expects to have trucks rolling by 2014.