MHNA works for bikeway

The organization asked for MnDOT’s help with a new trail crossing under I-35W.

MHNA works for bikeway

Jane Campbell

The Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association wants to add a straight bike connection between the Stone Arch Bridge and the Dinkytown Greenway, which currently ends behind the University of Minnesota’s Sanford Hall.

The bikeway would run underneath Interstate 35W along the Mississippi River and the railroad tracks near the 10th Avenue Bridge, which connects the University’s East and West banks. It would allow bikers and pedestrians to cross I-35W at a point where there are no cars.

Currently, the only place to cross without car traffic is the pedestrian bridge on Fifth Street Southeast.

MHNA President Cordelia Pierson requested help on the project in a letter to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

“It’s the kind of project that will take years to do,” she said. “What’s missing is a shared commitment to get it done.”

The space under I-35W is currently private railroad property. Negotiations with landowners take a long time, Pierson said.

John Griffith, MnDOT west area manager, agreed that getting construction approval from private property owners will be a hurdle.

“Connecting Dinkytown and the Stone Arch Bridge could be done quickly,” he said. “It’s the project development process that could take a while.”

Griffith said MnDOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian unit has been working on the project, but right now “nothing has moved forward” in terms of negotiating with landowners.

In the letter to MnDOT, Pierson said the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood “boasts very high rates of walking and bicycling, despite some challenging barriers and high accident rates.”

“The space under I-35W is a logical place in terms of a corridor,” Griffith said. “We’re identifying how to create a better pedestrian experience off the city streets.”

The Dinkytown Greenway, which opened in August, connects TCF Bank Stadium to the Mississippi River, but Pierson said student bicyclists aren’t very aware of the trail.

“I’ve heard of it, but I don’t know a lot about where it is,” interior design senior Lauren Rath said.

Pierson said the MHNA needs to post better signs designating the trail’s location.

Other improvement projects

Pierson said biking and walking transportation options are becoming more of a priority alongside other new transit developments, like the Central Corridor light rail and the Dinkytown Greenway.

In the letter to MnDOT, Pierson also said she wants improvements to the Fifth Street Southeast pedestrian bridge by 2017.

Nursing senior Brynn Stofferahn said she feels unsafe using the bridge at night.

“It could use some improvements,” she said, “like lights for walking at night.”

When the agency responds to that request, Griffith said, the main priority should be repairing the concrete and fencing on the bridge.

He said MnDOT would likely respond to this request sooner than the bikeway because the agency is directly responsible for the bridge, unlike the privately owned bikeway area.

“If it’s our responsibility, like maintenance near interstates, we’re better at responding,” Griffith said.