Minneapolis, the Venice of the Upper Midwest


Special to streets.mn , April 1, 2012

The City of Minneapolis recently received Federal funding under the Advanced Quality Urban Waterways Initiative (New Starts) Retro-Transit program to investigate alternative scenarios for transforming city streets into canals. By revealing the underlying stream beds that have been paved over in more than 150 years of the city’s existence, the proposed Urban Waterways system aims to restore the natural habitat of the endangered Musk Beaver and the Yukon Green Frog within the city of Minneapolis. It is said this is 17 percent more effective than green roofs in filtering polluted rainwater before it drains into the Mississippi River.

In addition, the canals will create a distinctive urban form and enable the deployment of a new set of environmentally-friendly (green) water taxis. These water buses will be painted Chartreuse to aid in identification. Express water buses will stop only every other block. The aim is to eventually convert every street and avenue to a canal, so that all travelers will have to either walk on the Skyway system or use public water-based transit to reach their destinations. To avoid transfers, local public transit agencies plan to commission designs for amphibious water/land buses.

Federal grants

In addition to the AQUWI grant, Minneapolis is also happy to have received a “Swimmable Communities” grant from the US Department of Parks and Recreation to help pay for the study. This grant will focus on the feasibility of making the canals swimmable year round, through heating in the winter (and cooling in the summer). It is anticipated that heating will be in place during the winter months of August to July. Minneapolis Director of Canals, Dutchess Bridgewater, says “Initiativizing this project will put Minneapolis uniquely on the Map with our sister cities of Venice, Stockholm, and Amsterdam”.

Restoring historic environment

Archeologists have found that the land Minneapolis was built on was historically a swamp, dubbed the Eye of the Pig, that was filled in by native Americans around 1100 AD to form the capital of the civilization of Antonopolis. That civilization collapsed about a century later, for unknown reasons, but mysterious runes found in northern Minnesota suggest that an invasion may have been the cause.