Bridge 9 Extension
Tragically, it looks like the City is on the verge of giving up on a significant bicycle infrastructure opportunity.
Bridge 9, a beautiful old rail bridge that has been converted to bicycle and pedestrian use, connects the University east bank campus to the west bank, near Riverview Tower and Bluff Street Park. Though it's a wonderful ride, it currently gets little use, because it lacks good connections at either end. The East Bank connection will be addressed by the U of M trail, a long-planned bike trail that will follow the railroad line into Dinkytown and link up to the planned Granary Road bike trail.
The West Bank connection has been harder to solve. Today, if one sought to get from the University to Downtown via Bridge 9, one would have to either go out of the way to get down to West River Parkway (a very significant grade change), or go through the far from ideal Seven Corners intersection. A more direct route into downtown and the existing bike lanes on 2nd Street has long been blocked by the I-35W bridge.
One of the only silver linings of the I-35W bridge collapse was that it offered a possibility for reweaving this particular tear in the urban fabric. A tunnel was proposed, which would carry people under the new bridge, creating a direct, flat, fast link between the University and Downtown. This proposal could help strengthen the effort to convince the Park Board to invest in Bluff Street Park, and make it an amenity for University folks, West Bank residents and Downtown residents and workers. It has the support of the bicycle community, having come in a very close third on a list of ten potential bike projects citywide in a Bicycle Advisory Committee vote.
But MnDOT's contractor has come back with a staggering quote of $1,200,000 for including this tunnel in their reconstruction of the bridge. So far the Federal and State governments have refused to pay for it. I am hopeful that the price will come down and that I can convince a mojority of my colleagues to support funding this. I plan to fight for this as hard as I can, as long as there's any chance that it can be built.