Two years after landslide, West River Parkway finally set to reopen

The parkway and Franklin Avenue bridge will be open to the public Thursday evening.

The West Bank mudslide area is shown on Sept. 1, 2014. The mudslide, which occurred at the base of the University of Minnesota’s Fairview Medical Center in June of 2014, will re-open Thursday evening to let bicyclists and pedestrians use the West Bank trail.

Daily File Photo

The West Bank mudslide area is shown on Sept. 1, 2014. The mudslide, which occurred at the base of the University of Minnesota’s Fairview Medical Center in June of 2014, will re-open Thursday evening to let bicyclists and pedestrians use the West Bank trail.

Eliana Schreiber

A popular area for Minneapolis bicyclists reopened more than two years after heavy rain caused a mudslide that closed the area to traffic.

The West River Parkway mudslide and Franklin Avenue Bridge construction projects concluded Wednesday. The sites opened Thursday for cars and pedestrians.

The mudslide occurred on a steep slope already saturated from rainfall in June 2014. Additional rainfall over the following year created more debris and worsened the damage, said Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Spokesperson Dawn Sommers. No one was injured in the mudslide.

The $5.6 million project — which included replacing the original soil with more stable soil and installing retaining walls — was more complicated than officials originally imagined, Sommers said. New trees and shrubs will be installed later to help prevent erosion.

Water seepage in rocks, hidden beneath the landslide, was an unanticipated challenge that delayed the project’s completion. Workers had to install piping to divert water and prevent further instability, Sommers said.

“It’s not just as simple as there was some rain and a slope,” she said. “There was discovery of all the layers of rock and the ongoing seepage … that we weren’t really attuned to.”

The University of Minnesota’s West Bank Medical Center hospital, which is situated above the slope that collapsed, was another concern during the project.

MPRB worked with hospital staff on the project since the property line crossed Fairview’s land, said MPRB Design and Project Management Director Cliff Swenson.

The project also took significantly longer compared to others like it because of procedural requirements to get Federal Emergency Management Agency funding, Swenson said.

He said the site also falls in the historic Grand Rounds Scenic Byway System, which meant MPRB had to work within guidelines from state historic preservation office.

The team expected to finish construction by the start of summer, but extended road closures because of the nearby Franklin Avenue Bridge construction, Sommers said.

The bridge was closed so crews could replace its deck and refurbish concrete rails and lights.

Many area residents have anticipated the reopening of both the parkway and the Franklin Avenue Bridge, which has been under construction since May.

University of Minnesota psychology senior Liz Babkin said living near the bridge in Prospect Park while it was under construction made it much more complicated to get around.

“I really didn’t understand why it needed to be redone,” she said. “That’s pretty much the only connecting bridge to get to that side of campus.”

Babkin said the bridge closure has made simple commutes to West Bank campus much longer than normal and buses also had to reroute in that time.

“Everyone is just way too excited for [the reopening],” Babkin said.