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|First of Many Bike/Walk Projects, University Trail Connects the Twin Cities|
|Published on June 15, 2013||Email To Friend Print Version
By Steve Clark, Program Manager Bike/Walk TwinCities
With pavement application expected before the end of June, cyclists will soon have a continuous bikeway in Minnesota from Saint Paul to downtown Minneapolis.
If all goes as planned, 2013 will see a record number of BWTC-funded non-motorized projects implemented in Minneapolis and surrounding communities. This year's project list includes six bicycle boulevards, four corridors with new bike lanes, several new sidewalks, and three model pedestrian-improvement projects at complex intersections.
Kicking things off this summer is the long-awaited University Bike Trail-a project first conceived more than 20 years ago. In a matter of weeks, this new trail funded by BWTC will finally open for walking and bicycling, connecting the existing Campus Transit-way to Bridge #9. This means that cyclists and walkers will be able to travel by car-free expressway from the University of Minnesota's Saint Paul campus all the way to west of the Mississippi River. While the entire trail is less than a mile long, this important link on the northern border of the University of Minnesota (U of M)-with connections at Oak Street SE, 17th Avenue SE, and East River Road- is poised to become one of the most heavily traveled bike routes in the Twin Cities.
From just east of 15th street, another view of the soon-to-be-completed University Bike Trail funded by BWTC.
In many ways, the University Bike Trail project exemplifies Murphy's Law, as there has been nothing easy about it. The project, originally advanced with funding from the Metropolitan Council, foundered twice in negotiations with the railroad over property easements required to build the trail. With each failure, the project fell through and the Met Council dollars had to be turned back. Bike Walk Twin Cities joined the City of Minneapolis in the third and final attempt to negotiate with the railroad, but ultimately the trail was redesigned so that it all could be located on land owned by the U of M. This necessary redesign was sound, but not without compromise. The new plans reduced pavement width to nine feet in a few places in order to maintain at least two feet of clearance on both sides. And, similarly, the redesign required some of the bikeway, on the western end leading up to Bridge #9, to share space with a service road. Still, heroic efforts by project manager Paul Ogren led to a cooperative agreement signed by all parties involved, with the U of M graciously providing the trail easement at no cost to the City of Minneapolis. Both the successful collaboration and project redesign were key to moving ahead with this valuable route for bicyclists and pedestrians.
An Unexpected Bonus
With resulting cost savings, BWTC was able to redirect federal funds to more new infrastructure for biking and walking. In the works is the Bluff Street Trail, which, if approved by the Minneapolis City Council, will connect Bridge #9 through Bluff Street Park and under I-35W. From the I-35W tunnel, the trail will extend to 13th Avenue, where new bike lanes will connect cyclists to the 2nd Street bike lanes leading directly to downtown Minneapolis. Still under negotiation are accessible ramps to facilitate travel through Gateway Park, providing a continuous bikeway to and through North Minneapolis. If all goes smoothly, this entire project could be completed by the end of this year!
Stay tuned for the announcement of a ribbon cutting ceremony for the University Bike Trail in July. And watch for more updates on the Bluff Street Trail in the months to come. My prediction? Bridge #9, perhaps the best kept secret in this land of cool bridges, will soon become nearly as cherished as the Stone Arch Bridge.
Other BWTC Projects to Look Forward to in 2013
• Main Street Sidewalk and Bike Lanes - This will be Fridley's first "Complete Street," creating safe cycling conditions on new bike lanes and easier walking on a new sidewalk. The planned route connects to housing, retail, and the Northstar transit station. Project completion is expected in late summer.
• Bloomington Avenue Bike Lanes - By narrowing travel lanes to ten feet and parking lanes to seven feet, new five-foot bike lanes will be marked on Bloomington Avenue. The new lanes will tie in to the planned Southern Connector bike boulevard in Minneapolis to the north, and eventually to the Old Cedar Bridge in Bloomington to the south. The MnDOT-approved ten-foot travel lanes are particularly significant; this project marks the first time this lane configuration has ever been given the green light on a Municipal State Aid (MSA) route. This north-south route will also connect to the existing trail along 76th Street.
• Girard/Humboldt Avenue Bicycle Boulevard - This north-south route with traffic-calming improvements will connect a trail along Hwy. 62 all the way to the 75th Street trail that is part of the future nine-mile regional trail being developed by Three Rivers Park District.
• Griggs Avenue Bicycle Boulevard - The completion of a bicycle boulevard on this 1.5-mile local street, which already has a new pedestrian/bike bridge over I-94, is expected by the end of September.
• Jefferson Avenue Bikeway - Nearly four miles in length, much of this bikeway project has already been completed using local funds, including bike lanes from Lexington Avenue to W. 7th Street. A new sidewalk, and bicycle boulevard improvements including curb extensions and a traffic circle, will be built using BWTC funds by end of September.
• Charles Avenue Bicycle Boulevard - This 3.4-mile project is also set to be completed before October, and will include motor vehicle traffic diverters, bike boulevard markings, traffic circles, and fewer stop signs.
The following Minneapolis projects are expected to be completed in 2013, but late in the fall. Please see the City of Minneapolis Bike Program website for the most up-to-date information on these projects:
• Southern Connector Bicycle Boulevard
• Glenwood Ave Bike Lanes and Sharrows
• Presidents' Bicycle Boulevard
• Seven Corners Pedestrian Improvements
• 7thStreet North Pedestrian Enhancements
• Hennepin Ave. 12th to Loring Park Bike Lanes - newly funded!
• Penn/Osseo/44th Ped & Bike Improvements - newly funded!