The much-awaited Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail is creeping toward reality, with city councils in Bloomington and Richfield expected to give their blessing later this month to the trail master plan.

Those cities would join Hopkins, Minnetonka and Edina in approving plans for the 15.5-mile trail, which will build a connection to walking and biking trails in the area.

Kelly Grissman, planning director for the Three Rivers Park District, said the trail will pass through cities that are underserved by trails, offering opportunity for recreation as well as new ways to get to work.

“It passes the Mall of America, Best Buy world headquarters, the Southdale mall, will be close to downtown Hopkins and be near the airport,” she said. “These are all huge job generators.”

The trail also removes significant barriers for bikers and walkers by providing ways around Hwys. 77, 169, 100 and 62 and Interstates 35 and 494.

The trail starts in Hopkins and will end at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington, joining with trails in Dakota County and to the proposed Minnesota River State Trail.

Bloomington Parks and Recreation Manager Randy Quale said he does not expect the trail plan to be controversial in his city. In Bloomington, much of the trail’s preferred route runs on wide sidewalks installed in the last 10 years along American Boulevard. While the sidewalks aren’t quite as wide as standards for regional trails call for, the trail master plan allows the city to widen them when existing infrastructure needs replacement.

That is many years in the future, Quale said.

He sees the trail as an important amenity in his city.

“Bloomington has been kind of like a missing link in the regional trail system,” he said. “This will be terrific.”

At Richfield’s request, the master plan also includes an alternative route for southernmost trail segments. The city has long been interested in an underpass for Hwy. 77 at E. 77th St., which would connect the city directly with the airport and the Mall of America. That route would take the trail north of I-494, where it would run parallel to the highway and then jog south near Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

The trail is being built in segments and isn’t expected to be complete until 2018, Grissman said. She said the Minnetonka portion is done, and parts are complete in Hopkins and Richfield. A small segment is done in Edina, and about half of the rest of the trail in that city will be built in 2015.

Trail resolutions are expected to be before the Bloomington council on Oct. 21 and the Richfield council on Oct. 22. The Bloomington Planning Commission will review the plan on Thursday.

Three Rivers is accepting public comment on the trail master plan through Oct. 17. Written comments can be sent by e-mail, fax or U.S. mail. The master plan is online at: