City OKs bike-trail funds

Construction on the trail connecting the U and downtown Minneapolis will begin in summer.

by Andre Eggert

A long-delayed bike trail that would connect the University of Minnesota with downtown Minneapolis got two injections of funding in the past week.

The Transportation and Public Works Committee of the Minneapolis City Council accepted $98,535 for the trail Tuesday from the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program, a federal program to promote bicycling and walking.

On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council funneled $247,765 to the bike trail from other city projects that fell through.

An updated cost estimate showed extra money is necessary, said Paul Ogren, project manager for the trail.

The extra funds also cover amenities, including additional drainage systems that comply with storm water standards for University property.

The plan is 90 percent done, Ogren said, and the next step will be acquiring land from railroad giant Burlington Northern Sante Fe.

Construction will begin in June or July, Ogren said, and will take about three months to complete.

The trail will promote year-round biking and bike culture for the city as well as help get bikers off streets, similar to the Midtown Greenway in South Minneapolis, Ogren said.

Before the trail can be completed, the University will be installing an electrical ductwork system underneath it for other purposes, Ogren said. Depending on the ductwork schedule, this could cause further delays, but thatâÄôs not expected, he said.

The bike trail was originally conceived in the 1990s but has faced several delays, primarily with acquisition of land owned by BNSF.

“WeâÄôre using the railroad right of way, so there did have to be a negotiation,” Hilary Reeves, a spokeswoman for Transit for Livable Communities, said. “The fact that weâÄôre not right on an existing roadway for this connection means itâÄôs just more complicated.”

Bike Walk Twin Cities, a group that is part of Transit for Livable Communities, has been the nonprofit organization in charge of distributing funds for the project.

Reeves said that TLC and others in the biking community have felt a “great urgency” to get this project going.

The University has been working with Minneapolis to get the project completed and is giving an easement to the city to put part of the trail on University-owned property for just $1, Steve Sanders, a bicycle coordinator at University Parking and Transportation Services, said.

The trail will greatly benefit the University, Sanders said.

“ItâÄôs been a project long in coming,” he said. “ItâÄôs going to provide some key connections to the University.”