Uptown-Downtown bike connection moving forward

A final design for a bike bridge linking Uptown to Downtown is coming together after federal and neighborhood authorities accepted a new design that greatly reduces lost parking in the Lowry Hill East (Wedge) neighborhood.

The 14-foot-wide walking/biking bridge connects the tip of the Wedge (where Bryant and Aldrich avenues meet just north of Franklin Avenue) to Loring Park, bridging I-94.

Heading south from Loring Park, the plan would use an existing trail on Lyndale Avenue’s east side. Between I-94 on-ramps from Hennepin Avenue and Lyndale, it would switchback upward and run west, parallel to the Hennepin ramp. The trail would deposit bikers in the parking lot of Vision Loss Resources, 1936 Lyndale Ave. S., where they would connect via Bryant Avenue south to the Midtown Greenway.

Construction is expected to begin in Spring 2004.

The new project design versus the old ones

The project ran into difficulties in April when Wedge residents complained about lost parking and street configurations south of Downtown. They were given three new options.

City project manager Stephanie Malmberg said the new bridge option takes a handful of parking spots, compared to 16-40 lost spots in the other configurations. The plan also avoids cul-de-sacs on Bryant and Aldrich south of I-94 or longer bridges, two facets of other proposals.

City transportation engineer Don Pflaum said the proposed route through the Wedge puts bike signage– not lanes– on Bryant from the Midtown Greenway (29th Street) north to where Bryant becomes a service road to the Vision Loss Resource Center parking lot.

Dylan Skybrek, a Wedge resident and bicyclist, was chosen by his neighbors after the heated April meeting to fashion an alternate plan free of the cul-de-sac and loss of green space and parking. However, Skybrek said the city’s new plan is just what they had in mind.

Skybrek said the new option is a win-win situation for everyone. He said the new bridge will benefit the Wedge neighborhood and provide for a much safer connection to Downtown. The LHENA board agreed and passed a motion in support of the new design at their June meeting. Pflaum said the response from the Citizens for Loring Park (CLP) has also been positive.

The price tag

Pflaum said the city hasn’t gotten bids for the project, but the total estimated cost is $3 million. He said of that the federal government is covering approximately 80 percent in grants, and the city will cover the other 20 percent.

Both LHENA and the CLP are pitching in Neighborhood Revitalization money as part of the city’s cost.

The LHENA board has committed up to $127,000 for the project, and the CLP had committed $63,000. Pflaum said because costs might have changed with design changes, any money left over from neighborhood funds would go back to them.

Pflaum said the city would return to the neighborhood groups and MNDOT with finalized designs in the next few months.

Landscaping and lighting will occur after major construction. Malmberg said during bridge construction she hopes to begin work on a block-long bike path connection between Groveland Avenue and Oak Grove Street on Hennepin, to connect existing Loring Park bike paths.