Council picks trench route for North Loop bike path

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September 12, 2005 // UPDATED 1:57 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

The City Council is changing course on the Downtown extension of the Cedar Lake Bike Trail, opting for the path paralleling the railroad tracks while stopping work on the street-level trail.

The 13-0 vote Sept. 2 directed staff to "immediately cease action [pending] further review" of the proposed street trail.

The Cedar Lake Trail connects the Chain of Lakes to Downtown. It runs along the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe railroad tracks, passes under I-94 and stops near North 12th Street and Glenwood Avenue (near Lee's Liquor Lounge). The stretch in question would extend the trail to West River Road a link to the University of Minnesota.

The Cedar Lake Park Association had pushed for a railroad trench path as a faster, safer ride than along city streets. Some North Loop residents favored it, too, because a street-level trail would reduce parking, affect future streetscape improvements and run too close to the building entrance and parking exit for Rock Island Lofts, 111 4th Ave. N.

However, the trench option would cost approximately $4.2 million for the three-block stretch between Washington and the river because of land acquisition and construction costs.

The street-level plan exited the trench at Washington Avenue, over a $300,000 dedicated bridge lane to 4th Avenue North and eventually to the river. (A trench route means the bridge lane will get little if any use. It is not connected to driving lanes.)

Recently, after U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo secured $3 million in federal funds to keep the bike path in the trench, the city began pursuing dual-track planning for street and trench routes between Washington Avenue and the river.

Now that the trench-only plan has been endorsed, the city can reduce its request for $1.8 million in state bonding, which had also included the street-level trail, said Donald Pflaum, Public Works project manager. He is working on new estimates.

Downtown Councilmembers Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) and Natalie Johnson Lee (5th Ward) pushed the railroad trench-only language.

Johnson Lee said the staying in the trench "was the premier choice in the first place."

Goodman said the dual-track approach created confusion, and the city owed the Cedar Lake Park Association "the security of knowing our efforts will be focused on putting it in the railroad right of way."

Pflaum said if the city gets the state bonding money in 2006, it could begin construction in 2007. City staff and others concerned with the bike path also are working with Twins stadium planners. The new stadium would cantilever over the railroad tracks, and affect the bike trail running there.