A frustrating gap for bikers entering downtown alongside Hiawatha Line trains should be closed by the end of the summer. A proposal to spend nearly $1.3 million to connect the Hiawatha LRT Trail with downtown bike routes got preliminary City Council approval in committee Tuesday.

What's the problem?

That trail currently ends at 11th Avenue S., which has bike lanes but requires a detour of several blocks to reach bike lanes headed deeper into downtown. More than 1,300 bikers take the trail in warm weather, and more than 300 continue over potholed private parking lots, the most direct route. "It's not safe and it's not official," said Jack Yuzna, a city engineer.

What's the fix?

The gap will be filled for westbound riders with a short section of off-road bike path adjoining S. 3rd Street that will connect at Norm McGrew Place with a new on-road bike lane that will continue west on 3rd to Hennepin Avenue. For eastbound riders, the existing S. 4th Street bike lane will be extended by a block and then link via McGrew to the off-road section.

Who's paying?

The project was rebid recently after attracting only one bidder last year. It saves money and time by using strips of public right-of-way, including land left over from light-rail construction. All of the money for construction comes from a federal pilot program intended to encourage biking and walking in the Twin Cities. Another $260,000 was awarded last week. The city is adding $261,000 diverted from other purposes, mostly for design costs.

Caution: Gap ahead

Work is expected to be completed this year on the extension of the Cedar Lake Trail, which connects western suburbs with W. River Parkway. There's no timetable yet for filling the gap between Bridge 9 across the Mississippi River and bike lanes on 2nd Avenue S. Another project that may begin this year would link Bridge 9 with SE. Oak and 5th Streets.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438