The rebuilding of a major street crossing the middle of north Minneapolis will give the North Side another major east-west link for bikers and walkers.
The renovation this year of some portions of 26th Avenue N. and the reconstruction next year of others will leave a revamped and narrower street from Wirth Parkway to the Mississippi River. It will have eight-foot-wide bikeways and five-foot-wide sidewalks, with a six-foot boulevard separating bikers and walkers from the street.
Those changes will leave the street about 10 feet narrower from curb to curb than now, according to Jeff Handeland, a city engineer.
The off-street bike path will replace a crumbling on-street bike lane. “It is really bad,” said Georgianna Yantos, a resident who lives a block off 26th. “The road is so broken up. There are so many potholes.”
The new bike and walking paths also potentially open up new access to the river. Representatives of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board are planning to contact owners of the Lafarge cement plant about whether they’d be willing to grant an easement over part of the plant’s riverfront property, according to Cliff Swenson, a Park Board manager. That would allow 26th to connect with the West River Parkway recreational trails at Ole Olson Park. The Park Board would also need to negotiate a crossing of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad, Swenson said.
The River First plan adopted by the Park Board in 2012 also calls for an overlook at the river end of 26th. The Park Board will first determine who owns that property, Swenson said.
Plans approved this week by the City Council’s Transportation and Public Works Committee divide the project into two phases. This year’s work will start in the summer, and renovate the street between Wirth and W. Broadway Avenue, and also between Lyndale Avenue and N. 2nd St. That portion will be ground down extensively and repaved. The midsection of the route between Broadway and Lyndale, and also a short portion from 2nd to the river will get a more thorough reconstruction next year. Both will get extensive curb and gutter replacements, Handeland said, especially on the street’s north side where the bike path and boulevard replace space now occupied by the street.
Yantos said that area residents, who have been planning for years for a revamped street, would have preferred more separation between the bike and walking trails, which will be side by side. One purpose behind the changes is to give more boulevard to the street to make it more pleasant for biking and walking.
Another North Side bike advocate, Alexis Pennie, said the city’s design falls short of resident aims, especially in separating the off-road paths, and crossing Washington Avenue N.
The entire project will cost an estimated $8.7 million, with this year’s work accounting for $3.4 million. Property owners will pay $680,000 in assessments for this year’s work, a standard practice for street improvements. The bulk of the cost will be paid by almost $2 million in city bonds that will be paid off by city taxpayers. State aid will cover the remaining $805,000.
The revamped trails will join several other North Side bike routes that span all or most of the city’s width. They include Plymouth, Lowry and Dowling avenues, and paths along Victory and Webber parkways.