Three Rivers Park District set out 20 years ago to build a network of urban bicycle and pedestrian trails through the metro's northwestern suburbs, and it's about to fill in a missing gap.

All that's left to complete along the Bassett Creek Regional Trail is a 1-mile segment in Golden Valley.

In April, the park district will submit an application in hopes of winning a federal transportation grant that would provide most of the $3.1 million needed to build the "last missing link," said Jonathan Vlaming, associate superintendent of planning, design and technology.

"This is tremendously important," he said. "It will have achieved a vision we started in 2000, to tie all the trails into the parks."

The trail begins in French Regional Park in Plymouth and winds through neighborhoods in New Hope, Crystal and Golden Valley. On the eastern end, the trail uses a pedestrian/bike bridge to cross Hwy. 100. It then turns south and passes Bassett Creek, the Briar­wood Nature Area and Minnaqua Pond before ending on Regent Avenue at Golden Valley Road.

Plans call for a 10-foot-wide trail separated from traffic by a concrete median to be built along Golden Valley Road from Regent farther east to near Theodore Wirth Parkway. From there, users can connect to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board's extensive trail system known as the Grand Rounds and to downtown Minneapolis, Vlaming said.

The most recent counts show the trail sees about 120,000 visitors a year, he said, with a noticeable uptick in usage during spring, summer and fall. When the unbuilt gap is filled, Vlaming expects usage to "easily double."

Three Rivers is also proposing a new trail to link a neighborhood west of Hwy. 100 to the Bassett Creek trail. The new trail would run along Duluth Street west from Regent Avenue, where the trail now ends, to Douglas Drive and the Honeywell campus.

The Federal Transit Administration uses a number of criteria to score applications and award grants. By adding the offshoot, "that will bump up our score," Vlaming said. And since the project is "shovel ready," that should also help, he added.

If successful in getting the federal grant, Three Rivers would still need about $630,000 to fully fund the project. The money would likely come from Hennepin County and the city of Golden Valley, Vlaming said. Construction would start between 2023 and 2025, he said.

Future plans call for the Crystal Lake Regional Trail, which runs through Robbinsdale and Crystal, to be extended to Elm Creek Park in Maple Grove.

Jobs near transit

Minneapolis-St. Paul held at No. 13 in the 2018 national rankings of the number of jobs workers can get to using public transportation.

Twin Cities workers can reach more than 18,000 jobs by train or bus in a half-hour or less and nearly 147,000 jobs in an hour or less, according to the annual survey of the 50 largest U.S. cities carried out by the Accessibility Observatory at the University of Minnesota.

The Twin Cities also ranked 13th in 2016 and 2017, said study author Andrew Owen.

Owen said the report shows accessibility to the Twin Cities' 1.8 million jobs can improve with smart investments in transit planning and job placement.

"There is work we can do to make it easier to get to jobs by transit," he said.

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