The Winding Path to Build an Unusual--and Expensive--Bike Lane

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(Minneapolis -- Dan Olsen, MPR) An unusual, and expensive, bike trail through one of the most hectic areas of Minneapolis may not open this year. The Cedar Lake bike trail, just slightly more than one-mile long, is eagerly awaited by cycling enthusiasts, but the path to building it has been long and difficult.

City of Minneapolis civil engineer Jack Yuzna says building this stretch of the Cedar Lake biking and walking trail in downtown Minneapolis is one of the most challenging projects in his professional career.

Yuzna says it involves negotiations with office building owners, a railroad company, various levels of government and the Minnesota Twins.

"We're actually walking underneath the promenade overhead of the Target Field ball park," Yuzna said while showing the project. "And if you listen you can hear there's a freight train passing through which was all part of the complexities of building the ball park along with the trail."

Bicycling advocates have been waiting 20 years for the link.

Nick Mason, who serves on the Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Board and is a member of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, predicts the link will be like a freeway for bicyclists.

"The city estimates that this piece of trail will be the most used trail facility in the state," he said.

One reason for the heavy use is that the link connects what on a map looks like a spider's web of trails.

Cedar Lake Park Association spokesman Neil Trembley, himself an avid cyclist, said the new section fills in a missing piece in the region's extensive biking and walking network. Metropolitan Council Senior Parks Planner Jan Youngquist says the Cedar Lake Trail link allows people to bike all the way to the southwest suburb of Chanhassen. The connection is a key piece in a bigger plan.

"Right now there are 231 miles of regional trails, and our plans looking out to the year 2030 and beyond are looking for more than a thousand miles of regional trails throughout the seven county metro area," Youngquist said.

Scenically, the new path is unusual.

Instead of taking cyclists and walkers along a burbling brook or through a flowering meadow, the Cedar Lake Trail extension goes through a hectic area of downtown Minneapolis, through parking lots and past warehouses.

It brings them to the Federal Reserve Bank building along West River Road parkway, where it connects to trails along the Mississippi River.

The price tag for buying easement rights and building the biking walking path is big, approaching eleven million dollars.

That's a lot of money for a length of trail a little more than a mile long, but advocates argue it's a good investment if it helps increase safety and reduce congestion on city streets.

Most of the money to pay for the trail comes from the federal government ($5.1 million), the state ($1.8 million) and the rest is from the city.

Read the full piece, and listen to the story at MPR.