Bike-Walk Work Deserves its Own Season
To Minnesota's two universally acknowledged seasons -- winter and road construction -- we can add a third: bikeway openings. Bike Walk Twin Cities, the federally funded nonmotorized transportation developer, expects a record number of projects to be completed this year in Minneapolis, St. Paul and suburbs.
The most long-awaited of them is the University Bike Trail from the St. Paul campus to near downtown Minneapolis via the old Northern Pacific Railroad No. 9 bridge across the Mississippi River. This project has been in the works for more than 20 years, with Metropolitan Council funding repeatedly turned back because of disputes with the railroad over needed property easements, according to BWTC.
Eventually, cooperation between BWTC, Minneapolis and the U of M rerouted the trail onto land owned by the university, to which it gave the city an easement at no cost. The money saved has allowed BWTC to plan a further biking connection from the bridge to downtown, a project awaiting city council approval. The University trail is expected to open in July, the Bluff Street Park extension by year's end.
"This important link ... with connections at Oak Street Southeast, 17th Avenue Southeast and East River Road is poised to become one of the most heavily traveled bike routes isn the Twin Cities," BWTC says.
Also in the offing this year:
- Fridley Main Street sidewalk and bike lanes, creating the second-ring suburb's first "complete street" in an area near housing, retail and the Northstar commuter rail station. Completion is expected in late summer
- The Southern Connector bicycle boulevard, running from East 24th Street to East 62nd Street in Minneapolis via 12th, 17th and Bloomington Avenues South. Bids go out next month; completion expected by Oct. 31.
- Glenwood Avenue bike and shared lanes from Xerxes Avenue North to 10th Street North in Minneapolis. Late fall completion is expected.
- Stone Arch Bridge and Presidents bike boulevard, with new markings from the northeast border of Minneapolis along several streets named for U.S. presidents and others to the iconic bridge into downtown. Late fall completion is expected.
- Pedestrian improvements on North 7th Street in Minneapolis from Plymouth Avenue to Twins Way. Late fall completion.
- Hennepin Avenue bike lanes from South 12th Street to Loring Park and Lyndale Avenue South in Minneapolis. This is newly funded and completion is expected late in the fall.
- Pedestrian and bicycle improvements along Penn and 44th Avenues North and Osseo Road in Minneapolis, mainly dealing with a dangerous intersection design, poor lighting and other issues -- also newly funded with completion in late fall.
- Richfield Bloomington Avenue bike lanes linking to the 76th Street trail, the Minneapolis Southern Connector and, eventually the old Cedar Avenue bridge across the Minnesota River from Bloomington to Burnsville. BWTC says this is the first time the state Department of Transportation has approved narrower, 10-foot driving lanes to make way for bicycles on a Municipal State Aid route.
- Richfield Girard-Humboldt Avenues bicycle boulevard will connect a trail along Crosstown Hwy. 62 to part of a nine-mile regional trail being developed further south by the Three Rivers Park District.
- By the end of September, St. Paul's 1.5-mile Griggs Avenue bicycle boulevard will cross Interstate Hwy. 94 over a new pedestrian-bicycle bridge.
- St. Paul's Jefferson Avenue bikeway, mostly completed with city funds, will get a new sidewalk, curb extensions and a traffic roundabout by the end of September thanks to BWTC funding.
- The Charles Avenue bicycle boulevard in St. Paul also will be finished by the end of September with motor vehicle traffic diverters, bike boulevard markings, traffic circles and fewer stop signs along its 3.4-mile route.
Nearly all of these projects piggyback on public right-of-way developed long ago with little thought for anyone but motorists. We're in a much different era now, where Minnesotans' increasingly diverse transportation choices call for complete streets that serve all kinds of travelers. Even though pilot-project federal funding for BWTC is expiring, we should expect state and local governments to keep up the pace of "third season" of improvements for the foot-powered.