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Legislation to rename stretch of highway after late Sen. David Tomassoni heads to governor's desk

House members recognized a beloved colleague, friend and mentor Wednesday with a bill that would honor the so-called “Defender of the Range.”

The House voted 129-0 to designate a section of U.S. Highway 169 between Marble and Mountain Iron as the “Senator David J. Tomassoni Memorial Cross Range Expressway.”

Sponsored by Rep. Dave Lislegard (DFL-Aurora) and Sen. Robert Farnsworth (R-Hibbing), HF4237/SF3881* now heads to Gov. Tim Walz, who plans to sign it Thursday.

Lislegard described Tomassoni as a dear friend, a mentor, someone who was kind but tough, who put people before politics, led with finesse and who called Chisholm the center of the universe.

Rep. Dave Lislegard speaks about his friendship with the late Sen. David Tomassoni Wednesday while presenting a bill to designate U.S. Highway 169, between Marble and Mountain Iron, as the “Senator David J. Tomassoni Memorial Cross Range Expressway.” (Photo by Michele Jokinen)

“We miss him deeply and this section of Highway 169 will remind us of his enormous contributions to our region and to our state,” Lislegard said in a statement.

After retiring from professional hockey ­in Italy (he played for Italy in the 1984 Olympics), Tomassoni served in the Legislature for three decades, starting in the House in 1993. He was elected to the Senate in 2000 and served until months before his death in August 2022, about one year after announcing he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

In his last year, Tomassoni spearheaded bipartisan legislation appropriating $20 million for ALS research and $5 million for caregivers.

“I’m so grateful he didn’t lose that fighting spirit, because he got things done,” said Rep. Anne Neu Brindley (R-North Branch).

Colleagues said it is fitting to name the road after Tomassoni. A longtime plan to turn the two-lane road into a four-lane road would not have come to fruition without his determination, Farnsworth said before the Senate passed the bill 65-0 earlier in the day.

Sen. John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin) joked that the password for Tomassoni’s office was, “More money for the Range.”

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