Closure of Greenway irks coalition

Fremont Avenue bridge
Construction work continues on the Fremont Avenue bridge, leading to a new four-week closure of the Midtown Greenway in Uptown. Midtown Greenway Coalition trail watcher Joshua Jackson watched the construction on May 19. Photo by Zac Farber

Hennepin County has closed down a stretch of the Midtown Greenway in Uptown while crews work on the new Fremont Avenue bridge in a move that has upset the nonprofit that cares for the bike and pedestrian route in South Minneapolis.

Starting May 18, the Greenway closed between Girard and Bryant avenues to allow for pier construction work anticipated to last about four weeks, according to Hennepin County public works. It’s the second major closure of the trail for the Fremont Avenue bridge reconstruction; in 2019, that segment closed for three months. Cyclists are detoured to 28th Street, which has been converted to a two-way bike lane between Girard and Bryant.

For the Midtown Greenway Coalition, a nonprofit that maintains and advocates for the trail, that’s too long.

The bridges that cross the Greenway are all about 100 years old, and the county has been slowly replacing the structures over the years. When bridges over Cedar and Portland avenues were reconstructed, the county did a great job of minimizing trail closures, according to Soren Jensen, executive director of the Midtown Greenway Coalition.

“We just don’t feel they’re doing everything they possibly can; maybe they are, but it doesn’t feel that way,” Jensen said.

There are differing circumstances that make Fremont more challenging than Cedar and Portland were, according to project manager Amanda Shotton. The space under the Fremont bridge is narrower than those under other reconstructed bridges, she said via a county spokesperson, and there is a larger elevation difference between the existing Greenway trail and the access road, which impacts the working space beneath the bridge. The project was also complicated by the need to replace an old Minneapolis water main that was under the bridge, she said. The bridge is expected to be completed by the fall.

“It is always our goal to limit the impacts our projects have on the public,” Stratton said. “We are very sensitive to this importance of the Midtown Greenway for both those using it for commuting and recreation.” The 28th Street detour isn’t terrible, Jensen said, but it’s much less safe for bikers than the Greenway, especially if people are riding against the typical one-way traffic on the street. The idea of a four-week closure at a time when people are relying more on the outdoors for recreation and exercise is not ideal, he said.

“It’s never a good idea to detour the Greenway, and it’s especially not a good idea to do it now,” Jensen said.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has only asked for a couple brief closures for its Interstate 35W project, which Jensen said has been appreciated. With future bridge reconstructions likely coming in the future, the coalition hopes the Fremont detours will be the exception not the rule.

“They’ve got to work harder to keep the Greenway as open as possible; this can’t be their default,” Jensen said.