From left to right: Ubah Jama, former mayor R.T. Rybak, City Council members Abdi Warsame and Jacob Frey and Mayor Betsy Hodges. Submitted image

From left to right: Ubah Jama, former mayor R.T. Rybak, City Council members Abdi Warsame and Jacob Frey and Mayor Betsy Hodges. Submitted image

Ground broken on Samatar Crossing

A groundbreaking ceremony Monday marked the beginning of construction on a new bicycle and pedestrian connection between downtown and the Cedar Riverside neighborhood.

Samatar Crossing is named in honor of Hussein Samatar, who became the first Somali-American to hold elected office in Minneapolis when he won a School Board seat in 2010. Before he could complete his term, Samatar died in August 2013 due to complications from leukemia. He was 45.

The new piece of infrastructure named for Samatar repurposes the former 5th Street ramp to downtown from Interstate 94, which closed last year, to create a new bicycle and pedestrian bridge. The bridge will connect 15th Avenue South in Cedar Riverside to 11th Avenue South in downtown over Interstate 35W.

The bridge design includes four separate paths for pedestrians and cyclists, lighting and public art. Construction of Samatar Crossing is expected to wrap up in 2018.

Samatar lived in Minnesota for nearly two decades after fleeing civil war in Somalia in the 1990s. In 2002, he founded the African Development Center, a nonprofit that aims to help immigrants and refugees from Africa establish businesses, buy homes and build wealth through training and financial literacy programming.

Those hoisting golden shovels at the groundbreaking ceremony included former mayor R.T. Rybak, who appointed Samatar to the Minneapolis Library Board in 2006, and Samatar’s widow, Ubah Jama, who sought to complete her husband’s School Board term after his death. The board ultimately chose Mohamud Noor.

Also participating in the groundbreaking were Mayor Betsy Hodges, City Council members Abdi Warsame (Ward 6) and Jacob Frey (Ward 3), whose wards will be linked by the bridge.