Cedar Lake bike trail through Mpls. unlikely to open this year

Cedar Lake Trail
Construction workers assemble a retaining wall along the new section of the Cedar Lake Trail in Minneapolis, Minn. Monday, Nov. 8, 2010.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Anticipation is building among Twin Cities bicycling enthusiasts over a long awaited new trail link, but Minneapolis officials now say they're unlikely to meet their goal of having the new Cedar Lake trail through downtown Minneapolis open for use this year.

The slightly more than one-mile long length of trail is unusual for its location and its cost.

City of Minneapolis civil engineer Jack Yuzna says building this stretch of the Cedar Lake biking and walking trail in downtown Minneapolis is one of the most challenging projects in his professional career.

Yuzna says it involves negotiations with office building owners, a railroad company, various levels of government and the Minnesota Twins.

Cedar Lake Trail
The northern end of the Cedar Lake trail's phase three emerges here at the Federal Reserve bank building. To gain access to the Mississippi river trail system, riders and walkers cross the West River Parkway.
MPR Photo/Dan Olson

"We're actually walking underneath the promenade overhead of the Target Field ball park," Yuzna said while showing the project. "And if you listen you can hear there's a freight train passing through which was all part of the complexities of building the ball park along with the trail."

Bicycling advocates have been waiting 20 years for the link.

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Nick Mason, who serves on the Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Board and is a member of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota. predicts the link will be like a freeway for bicyclists.

"The city estimates that this piece of trail will be the most used trail facility in the state," he said.

One reason for the heavy use is that the link connects what on a map looks like a spider's web of trails.

Cedar Lake Park Association spokesman Neil Trembley, himself an avid cyclist, said the new section fills in a missing piece in the region's extensive biking and walking network.

"The Kenilworth Trail has connected to it, what we call the Hutch spur, which is through St. Louis Park to the Hopkins depot, has connected to it, the Luce line has connected to it. . . then of course Kenilworth went to the Midtown Greenway, the Midtown Greenway goes all the way through southwest Minneapolis," he says. "So this connectivity has just been awesome."

Cedar Lake Trail at Target Field
Following approval from Target Field owners, the city built the trail underneath the stadium promenade. The trail runs under the ball park and re-emerges at Royalston Avenue where it connects with the earlier phase of the Cedar Lake Trail.
MPR Photo/Dan Olson

The connections created by this link will take bikers and walkers a long way.

Metropolitan Council Senior Parks Planner Jan Youngquist says the Cedar Lake Trail link allows people to bike all the way to the southwest suburb of Chanhassen. The connection is a key piece in a bigger plan.

"Right now there are 231 miles of regional trails, and our plans looking out to the year 2030 and beyond are looking for more than a thousand miles of regional trails throughout the seven county metro area," Youngquist said.

Scenically, the new path is unusual.

Instead of taking cyclists and walkers along a burbling brook or through a flowering meadow, the Cedar Lake Trail extension goes through a hectic area of downtown Minneapolis, through parking lots and past warehouses.

Cedar Lake Trail
Minneapolis civil engineer Jack Yuzna on site at the Cedar Lake Trail phase three project. The trail is a one mile long biking and walking path that will connect the Cedar Lake trail with the Mississippi river parkway trail that runs through the North Loop and Warehouse districts of downtown Minneapolis.
MPR Photo/Dan Olson

It brings them to the Federal Reserve Bank building along West River Road parkway, where it connects to trails along the Mississippi River.

Neil Trembley from the Cedar Lake Park Association said it's a safer alternative to the city streets cyclists have been using.

"You don't have any cars that you are going to have to deal with whatsoever," he said. "I mean think of families who can come down here with their kids and ride the trail."

The price tag for buying easement rights and building the biking walking path is big, approaching eleven million dollars.

That's a lot of money for a length of trail a little more than a mile long, but advocates argue it's a good investment if it helps increase safety and reduce congestion on city streets.

City officials say the final price tag won't be known until next year, when the Cedar Lake trail phase three project is done. Most of the money to pay for the trail comes from the federal government ($5.1 million), the state ($1.8 million) and the rest is from the city.

Some of the larger expenses include $730,000 paid to acquire easement rights from Land Partners II, a private group that owns property in and long the route of the trail. Also, $535,000 -- not including attorney fees -- was paid to the Burlington Northern Sante Fe railroad to purchase easement rights.

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