Construction starts on previously controversial bridge in Cedar-Riverside

Construction for a pedestrian and bicyclist bridge in Cedar-Riverside broke ground last week.

Kelly Busche

Construction began last week on a bridge to connect the Cedar-Riverside and downtown neighborhoods. 

Samatar Crossing, a new pedestrian and bicyclist bridge near 15th Avenue South and South 6th Street is planned to open in 2018.

Many neighborhood members initially opposed the crossing because it was proposed as a traffic bridge. Residents thought it would bring unwanted traffic from downtown into the neighborhood and cause safety concerns.

Ward 6 Minneapolis City Council Member Abdi Warsame said these concerns caused developers to alter their plans.  

“We didn’t want to make it into a burden where you have too [much] traffic coming into Cedar-Riverside,” Warsame said.

Minneapolis Mayoral Candidate and Ward 3 Minneapolis City Council Member Jacob Frey said he worked with Warsame to address community concerns about the possible traffic increase.

“No more traffic will be brought into the community because of this,” Frey said. “If anything, it’s less.”

The bridge is named after Hussein Samatar, Minneapolis’ first Somali-American elected to public office. Samatar was a prominent leader in the Cedar-Riverside community.

Minneapolis Park Board Candidate Abdi “Gurhan” Mohamed said naming the bridge after Samatar is significant because he was East African. 

“This is a great moment for the East African community,” Mohamed said.

The crossing will honor Samatar by bridging the cultures of different neighborhoods, Warsame said.

Former West Bank Community Coalition board member Mohamed Ali said he hopes the link will promote awareness of Cedar-Riverside’s immigrant population in the downtown Minneapolis community.

“They will see that there are […] people on the other side, on the east side of the city,” Ali said.

The crossing will help bridge the longstanding divide between the two neighborhoods, Frey said.  

“For decades, Cedar-Riverside has been intentionally separated from the central business district downtown. And finally, we’re remedying that serious issue,” Frey said.

Cedar-Riverside resident Maria Saporito said the bridge is convenient. She will use the bridge daily to walk or bike to her job at the U.S. Bank Stadium.

Abdirizak Bihi, director of Somali education and social advocacy at the Brian Coyle Community Center, said he has worked on the project since it began. 

The crossing has been in development since last year. 

Bihi said he supports the bridge because it will create opportunities and draw new people to Cedar-Riverside.

When finished, the bridge will display public art and green spaces, Warsame said, adding that he wants the bridge to be “a very green and welcoming space for everyone.”