Our very own bridge to nowhere?

The Strib is running a story about the temporary (and I hope permanent) cancellation of plans to build a bridge across the Mississippi to extend the Midtown Greenway to St. Paul. I’m a cyclist who’s ridden to work in snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures, and even uses a portion of the Greenway when riding to work, but I think the proposed bridge is a terrible waste of money that accomplishes little and has no real reason for being.

The eastern terminus of the Greenway is at West River road, almost exactly equidistant between both the Franklin Ave and Lake Street bridges. (Here’s the location on Google Maps; the Greenway ends where the railroad tracks cross the river.) Across the river in St. Paul, there’s a small neighborhood bounded no the north by I94 and on the east by the Town & Country Club. From that neighborhood, there’s a bridge crossing I94 to the north, leading to a heavily industrial section of St. Paul surrounding University Avenue. To the south the only exits to the south intersect Marshall (as Lake Street becomes on the St. Paul side of the river), and the only other exit to the north crosses Franklin Ave.

Thus, the proposed new bridge provides one route that’s unlikely to be traveled by a cyclist and two others which are merely alternate routes to existing crossing points. In short, it makes no sense.

This strikes me as a project that has rooted in the imagination of someone involved, who is backing it because it fits his or her vision of something that would be fantastic to accomplish. Whoever that person is, they haven’t really thought about it.

I’d much rather see that money go towards work on the River Lake Greenway (formerly the 40th Street Greenway) or towards extensions of bike lanes along Blaisdell and 1st Ave, or anywhere else in the city for that matter.

If only I ran the world . . .

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5 comments

  1. Man, Ick… Generally I agree with you… But…

    In your description of “Heavily industrial area around University Ave” you nailed my neighbourhood. Yep… That’s where I live.

    I was one of the bicyclists ‘fighting’ for that bridge. Perhaps it’s ‘lazy’ of us, but… Having to ride a mile down to Lake Street, and cross, and then go back UP to the Greenway is a pain in the arse! There’s actually several ‘bike routes’ on the St. Paul side that connect MY area “around Raymond and University” to other bike and commuter trails that extend from here, to the State Fair, continuing on to Downtown St. Paul… And from THERE all the way to Stillwater.

    Yes. To Stillwater.

    By connecting all of these various (now disconnected trails) we’d have ONE HECK of a corridor for bike/walk/run folks.

    I can’t say I blame people for not wanting another bridge over the Mississippi… I think that fighting the railroad for an easement and allowing a narrow path/extra bit to be added to the rail-bridge would be GREAT though.

    Sorry to argue, and stuff.

    — Tuckmac (St. Paul gearhead)

  2. Sorry to argue, and stuff.

    No need to be sorry; I don’t mind being told I’m wrong when I am. (Of course, I don’t think I’m wrong in this instance ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

    I agree that it would be fantastic for those in the neighborhood, but the point was that it’s a relatively small population that would be served by the bridge. (The “Bridge to Nowhere” reference in the title wasn’t meant as a slight to the neighborhood; it’s a reference to a more famous instance of ill-advised spending.)

    I did in fact think of you as I was writing because I did recognize the fact that your new abode was in the area. What I didn’t realize however, was that there were any connecting bike trails in the area. I remember searching for trails around there a few years ago when I was biking from downtown Minneapolis to the Metro State campus on Energy Park Drive just east of Snelling; I could get as far as Energy Park and Raymond via the U of M Transitway but was then left high and dry.

    If it turns out that the crossing would in fact be a great connection to other trails, then I’d reconsider. I’m still not convinced however, that the money wouldn’t be better spent on other bike projects.

    Sorry to be argumentative right back, and stuff.

    – Ick

  3. Tuck –

    That last line of my comment probably needs something like this ๐Ÿ™‚ at the end to convey the proper tone; it sounds kind of snarky as it is. Hope you didn’t read it and take it the wrong way . . .

  4. Ohh…. Ick’s being snarky…

    I like that word.

    No worries… I didn’t take any meaning.

    There’s very few ‘trails’ in St. Paul, I give you that. But they’ve been pretty gung-ho on dedicated bike-lanes on streets.

    Two major ‘transit ways’ from my neibourhood:

    UofM’s trail DOES put you out onto Energy Park and Como, but Como has biking lanes, thus taking you through Como Park, and the trail continues down Como all the way to Downtown St. Paul.

    There’s also a more ‘southern route’ taking one up Raymond to Pierce Butler which will get you across western St. Paul to the capital as well.

    Obviously at the mo’ is the Lake Street/Marshal connection. And yeah, I use that one to get over to the Green Way, or whatever… It’s just… It’s just…

    Surely adding a ‘bike/pedestrian’ addition to the existing rail-bridge wouldn’t hurt the ‘river views’ or impede the railroad too much.

    I just remember the Cedar Ave. Bridge, and it used to have a bike/pedestrian crossing, that’s now been torn down… Screwing the transit options of folks from Eagan/Bloomington.

    Instead of taking DOWN crossings, we should be adding them.

    ๐Ÿ˜‰

    There’s the wink…

    Smiles,
    T

  5. I wouldn’t have any problem with adding a bike path to the existing C.N. railroad bridge, if the price were right. However, C.N. is being obstinate, and I’ve seen engineer’s comments in other stories which suggest that the bridge really isn’t safe as it is, so that option seems to be out.

    I don’t object in any way to a crossing at that point, so long as it makes sense. Spending $16 million on a new bridge doesn’t seem to make sense, given the amount of other trails/lanes which could be constructed for that amount of money.

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