Sunday, July 04, 2010

What it takes to be American's Number One biking city - Newest Minneapolis bike trail

My mother loved big band dancing. From the 40s to the 50s she worked all day, danced all night. She danced on, but the crowds got smaller. The world was moving on.

That's how I felt at the Minneapolis Friday Night Skate a few weeks ago. Three of us showed up. Two  were geezers who could remember the glory days when we had over a 100 skaters; a third was a significant other. Just as well the turnout was so low -- the route sucked. Last year even a small group could have a good time going through the downtown, this year the new Twins stadium crowd have zapped the old route and the loss of the Hennepin bike lane made for a hard skate.

I'm not surprised that the urban skate is fading. I love urban inline, but it's a contact sport mostly done by geezers. I was surprised that we'd lost the Hennepin trail. That's not how Minneapolis got to be the #1 biking town in the US.

Happily, we're exchanging it for something much better ...

With the Minneapolis City Council's approval Friday of the purchase of a final easement, the most expensive, complicated and eagerly awaited mile of bike trail in Minneapolis has the go-ahead to break ground in mid-July

The project will extend the Cedar Lake Trail from where it now ends, near Lee's Liquor Lounge, to the Mississippi River at the Federal Reserve Bank ...  The new link will create the first traffic-free route through downtown for bicyclists who have had to dodge cars on Hennepin Avenue to bridge the gap to the river ... The 18-foot-wide pathway typically will be elevated 5 feet higher than the adjoining Northstar commuter rail tracks. There will be twin bike lanes of 4 1/2 feet each, and a 6-foot-wide pedestrian path.

The city project site shows Cedar Lake Trail Phase III - it will run along 4th street, so about 4 blocks north west of Hennepin and passing under the Twins Target Field promenade (so it will be a bit odd in places). It's supposed to be done in November 2010.

It took a lot of work to get this bicycle trail done by a lot of people and an earmark as well ...

"It's the most difficult acquisition the city has ever done," said Bill Cherrier, a city engineering supervisor. The city had to buy easements for portions of 26 parcels along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail trench. The new trail will be cut into the east edge of the trench, passing under the Target Field promenade.

"It almost slipped away," said Keith Prussing, longtime president of Cedar Lake Park Association.... With help from its legislator, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, they won $1.4 million in state bonding in 2004. U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., an avid bicyclist, earmarked $3 million in federal money to go with an previously allocated $2.3 million. The city also contributed.

The project's complicated machinations brought it to the City Council 24 times for 31 separate approvals of negotiations, easements, settlements and grant requests, in a legislative history that dates back to at least 1999.

"I hope -- I really hope -- that this is the last action we have to take," said Council Member Lisa Goodman, who inherited the project from former Council Member Jackie Cherryhomes. She recalled visiting the former president of the Federal Reserve Bank as part of a delegation that eventually prevailed with the view that the north end of the trail, in a ramp running past the bank and connecting to West River Parkway, would not pose a security risk

Sheesh. The bicycle trail was considered a security risk for the bank? As if the existing roads weren't a problem? Congratulations to those who struggled through an 11 year process to get a single trail built. It ain't easy to be a bicycling city in the USA.

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