July Report, part 1

Biking from North to Northeast Minneapolis:  (and why you can’t do that yet)

The Grand Rounds trails will take you on a 51-mile trip to every part of our city using paved, maintained paths, many created for the bikeway, but… There’s never been a good connection for riders between North and Northeast Minneapolis to the Mississippi or to each other. That is changing. With a little bit of push, we’ll have the NorthEast segment completed in the near future. When that’s done, East-Siders will be able to ride from the Diagonal, past the Quarry, over the river to the stunning Greenway Overlook and then past sculpture gardens and art installations and on to Theodore Wirth Park–a total of 4.6 miles.  

At the July 2-PAC meeting (via Zoom), Eastsider Dan Miller, aka MplsBikerDan introduced the ALMOST completed Great Northern Greenway. The only other off-street shared trail across Northeast and North Minneapolis and northern half of the city is the Grand Rounds.  

From the Great Northern Greenway Facebook page

The 18th Avenue NE reconstruction between Johnson St. and Stinson Parkway moved into high gear this summer. The trail between Johnson to Stinson is still open as far as the Post Office. Completion is planned later this year with improvements along the trail and to the Johnson, Arthur and Stinson intersections. This is a highly used trail by pedestrians and bicyclists so please be thoughtful sharing the trail. This section of the Great Northern Greenway allows users to access the Diagonal Trail, Stinson Parkway, the Quarry Shopping Center, the 22nd Ave Bike Blvd and the Northeast Athletic Fields.

How the plans came about: 

The current bridges for bikes and pedestrians, the Lowry and the Broadway bridges, are over a mile apart, but a little used BNSF railroad bridge lies between the two. With the Great Northern Greenway Overlook scheduled to open soon on the west side of the river, residents need access from both sides of the river so we can all enjoy this stunning overlook.  The BNSF bridge currently carries freight about once a week to one west side business, a concrete layer.  It’s possible that this freight could be delivered to the Canadian Pacific/Soo rail line, which could free up the bridge for a pedestrian-bicycle crossing. 

The BNSF bridge used to carry a second rail line, but that was removed years ago.  That empty 14’ width is enough to allow both freight and bike paths to share the bridge as an alternative design. If that idea doesn’t get a go-ahead, there is a wide enough right-of-way to build a cantilever extension for bike paths. 

Amenities installed, ready, and proposed along 26th Ave North:

  • INSTALLED: Three sculpture installations are in place at Theodore Wirth Park, Nellie Stone Johnson, and Fairview Park (2018)
  • READY: The Great Northern Greenway Overlook, a signature project of the MPRB is scheduled to open this year.   This huge walk-on sculpture “overlooking” the river gorge is pictured & described here:  https://mplsparksfoundation.org/Initiative/26th-ave-n-trail-link-pier/
  • Nice Ride stations are located at Fairview Park and Theodore Wirth Parkway/26th Ave Intersection.
  • MISSING:  a link to the BNSF bridge (proposed between Ole Olson Park and the W River Road Trail)

Amenities installed, ready and proposed along 18th Ave NE: 

  • INSTALLED AND IN PROCESS: 18th Avenue NE shared trail is being improved   between Stinson and Johnson including intersection improvements at Johnson, to the Post Office entrance, at Arthur Street, and at Stinson.
  • Nice Ride stations located at 18th & Monroe, 22nd & California, and 22nd & Central.  
  • MISSING: There is a trail gap between Marshall and California scheduled for 2022 which will replace the 16th Avenue detour. This connects the trail to the East Bank Trail along the river, and to the future bridge crossing.  
  • MISSING, NOT SCHEDULED: There is a trail gap Washington between the Monroe & 18th Ave NE intersection. Two routes have been studied. One uses 18th Avenue NE between Washington and Jefferson to Monroe.  Another is a tunnel under the railroad tracks, which would create a direct connection. Some of the gaps are “challenging,” so some people call the 18th Avenue trek, the Trek to Nowhere.

The Great Northern Greenway Task Force has been pushing to finish the trail since 2017, continuing efforts started by the Mississippi Riverfront Partnership and many other volunteers and organizations over 20 years.   

The Great Northern Greenway Task Force has participated in NE Minneapolis Open Streets events, 2017-2019 (no Open Streets 2020 due to Covid-19). Members also participate in Discovery Rides organized by Slow Roll Minneapolis and Biking Northeast. 

Check their Facebook page, sign up for their newsletter, or ask the Task Force to send a speaker to your neighborhood meetings.

You’ll find up to date maps and very brief progress reports on the Facebook page:   https://www.facebook.com/northmplsgreenways/

The Minneapolis Parks Foundation reports and future plans with a lot of Overlook promotion is here:  https://mplsparksfoundation.org/Initiative/26th-ave-n-trail-link-pier/ and here: https://www.minneapolisparks.org/news/2019/06/18/great-northern-greenway-overlook-design-will-open-north-minneapolis-to-the-river-through-a-dynamic-new-riverfirst-park-feature/

Biker Dan is waiting to lead a Slow Roll bike trek to inspect and explore the 18th Avenue trail across Northeast Minneapolis. If you are interested, contact Biker Dan at mplsbikerdan@gmail.com or Emilie at e-quas@tc.umn.edu or sign up for more information at the Great Northern Greenway Task Force Facebook page. Biker Dan will be watching the Covid-19 statistics and the calendar and will start offering possible dates and will find out if his contact at Nice Ride can coordinate for the trek.  

If you want to see what’s going on but don’t want to bike for any reason, Dan will set up a trek so non-bikers can drive to pre-arranged meet up places to learn about the trail.

And, do be aware that scooters are also welcome on the bike paths. Perhaps there are enough people on scooters to have their own group–contact Dan, FFI.

EQ note:  I didn’t see this until after the meeting, but Hennepin County was awarded Gold Status by the League of American Bicyclists’ list of Bicycle Friendly Businesses.  Star Tribune, “The Drive” column by Tim Harlow, July 13, 2020, page A7, column 5 at the end.


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