Officials clash over plans for Granary Corridor

Nick Wicker

After years of deliberation, planning for the possible bike and pedestrian path known as the Granary Corridor is inching closer to completion.
To make use of underdeveloped city space near railways in Southeast Como, the corridor would be a combined bike, pedestrian and roadway extending from the
Stone Arch Bridge to Highway 280. New plans for the corridor could be approved next month, but a draft of the plan was presented to the University District Alliance last week and was met with some controversy.
Some want the corridor to be strictly for bikes and pedestrians, while others want an option to add a road along the corridor, said Ted Tucker, an alternate board member for the UDA and member of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association.
The UDA turned to the granary corridor after TCF Bank Stadium construction wrapped up for its members saw potential in the underdeveloped strip of railyards that cut through the surrounding areas.
Ward 3 City Councilman Jacob Frey said conflict arose between members of the Marcy-Holmes community and the University of Minnesota. 
Frey said he wants to see the corridor be adopted as a bike and pedestrian space only because additional vehicle traffic from the corridor could make Marcy-Holmes neighborhood streets more congested. 
“The city is very much on board and in support of this idea. The neighborhood associations and the residents are also supportive for the most part,” he said. 
Frey said the corridor would help connect parts of the city with protected bikeways, a concept that was made a priority by the City Council earlier this month.
But Brian Swanson, chief financial officer for University Services and board member of the alliance, said the University doesn’t want to limit future options with the pathway.
“Let’s just maintain flexibility right now because we don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “We may never build the road, but we shouldn’t do anything right now that would prevent us from being able to build the road.”
Swanson said the bike path with an added roadway would let traffic in and out of the Southeast Como area. He said businesses like the recently opened Surly
Taproom could increase the demand for access to the area.
But John Kari, chair of the alliance’s Granary Corridor Task Force, said results from a 2012 study into the corridor’s potential traffic showed vehicle access for the full length of the corridor would not be necessary to open up the area to vehicles. 
Kari said he is editing the plan to account for the input and concerns of alliance members. The plan will face a vote on May 18.
If approved, he said the plan will be shown to neighborhood organizations and other alliance members to explain how it will impact the neighborhoods. 
The UDA will also have to meet with railroad companies that own the land, Kari said, so the plan can move forward with any necessary land purchases or usage arrangements. 
Once a plan is solidified, a new group of alliance members will be created to replace the current task force, Kari said. This group will oversee execution of the plan. 
Kari said the project could take decades to complete.
“We expect to be working on this on an annual basis for some time, but the key part is that we start moving,” he said.