Bluff Creek Park at I-35W

Dinkytown Greenway: Bluff Street vs. St. Anthony Main

The most important new connection between downtown Minneapolis and points East since the Green Line is about to open. I speak of course of the connection to the tunnel under I-35W at Bluff Street Park.

Bikeways UMN

Riding a NiceRide bicycle from Williamson Hall, I went from the University to the Dinkytown Greenway, and crossed the Number 9 Bridge.

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There I found myself riding across the orange plastic netting which had collapsed to the ground, went into the tunnel under I-35W at Bluff Street Park.

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[I assume they (whoever “they” are) didn’t want me to ride across the collapsed orange netting, but on the other hand, someone went right ahead of me, and no one said “boo”. Is there a law against riding across collapsed orange netting?]

After the tunnel I rode on the completed sidewalk (rather than the still under construction bike path) and found myself in the Mill District near Izzy’s Ice Cream and the Guthrie Theater. Who knew the University and Downtown were so close? [You can see the area for the soon-to-be-ribbon-cut tunnel in the pink box on the adjoining map]

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I then moved over to West River Parkway, and rode to the Stone Arch Bridge, and crossed the River again. There I found myself in St. Anthony Main. This is both really close to downtown and really close to the University, but the connection with the latter is weaker than it should be.

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I rode from St. Anthony Main to try to rejoin the Greenway. At first there is what seems like a private (though paved) road or driveway.

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But then I was back in the early 20th century, on about 100m of railroad tracks and dirt road. Google thinks its a street. Perhaps it is. It just isn’t paved. I felt I wasn’t supposed to be there.

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Where it soon meets up with the Dinkytown Greenway.

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I then continued on the Greenway until its awkward connection with Dinkytown,

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I rode along some of the lower volume streets there, and dropped the bike at the local NiceRide station. (University and 4th both need Cycletracks).

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Seriously, a bikeway between the University and St. Anthony Main is technically such an easy thing to fix. (I know, railroads), and it is appalling that such an obvious connection remains missing from the network. Doing something in the Dinkytown Trench was Voted in 2012 as Best Opportunity to Do Something Useful. While a section of the Dinkytown Greenway was completed, much of the Ditch remains an uncaptured opportunity. Granary Road has been discussed for years now, where is it? We could run a mostly grade-separated transitway in the Ditch (and along the Campus Transitway) connecting Downtown, Northeast, St. Anthony Main, the University (both campuses), and Roseville (see the northeast Purple Line here).

Getting back to the immediate question, connecting the U with St. Anthony Main via a trail, really why do we make such simple things so difficult for ourselves? There is an unused corridor. There is an unmet need. I don’t understand why the whole thing (Granary Road +) needs to cost $63M when local roads can be built for $2M per mile and paths for $0.2M per mile, and this is hardly 30 miles. (Note Bluff Street Trail was $3M, also quite pricey.) I have long talked about how transportation costs too much, but this is such a rich example. Cost is used as an excuse not to do anything, but the cost itself is never challenged. Surely we can do better.

NiceRide records the whole trip was 29 minutes.

I promise not to turn this into a bike blog, since there are so many in Minnesota already.

Flickr sets here and here.

Cross-posted at

14 thoughts on “Dinkytown Greenway: Bluff Street vs. St. Anthony Main

  1. Froggie

    I suspect the high cost for the whole Granary Rd is due to Superfund sites and the need for environmental cleanup.

    Concur that one of the hangups with a bike connection between St Anthony Main and the Dinkytown Trench is the railroads. They don’t like bike/ped paths right next to their active railroads….they see it as a liability issue. Which, as sad as it is, I can understand given today’s overly litigatious society. Still, it would be nice to work with the railroad (appears to be a BNSF spur) to figure out a connection.

    1. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

      Isn’t a large chunk of the Granary Road project costs in right of way acquisition from the RRs? If it were just a trail from, say, 14th and University over to St Anthony I would imagine it would cost next to nothing.

      Also, “University and 4th both need Cycletracks” – yes.

      1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

        If the County is going to insist that University and 4th be one-way streets, they must also be cycletracks. It’s traffic calming + great bicycling design. It’s that simple.

      2. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

        I’d like to see this BNSF spur, at least to the NP #9 bridge, purchased and land banked by MnDOT or another agency for future heavy rail connectivity between the downtowns.

        1. Froggie

          Given that we now have the Central LRT line, plus an already existing rail line (with 2 options…BNSF or CP) between the downtowns, I’m not sure why we would need the Dinkytown trench for such…

          1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

            Because there’s significantly less opportunity for through-routing on services north of Minneapolis. Imagine NLX from Duluth, entering Minneapolis via the Wayzata Sub – it would have to back out to proceed to SPUD. Or if we wanted the Empire Builder to hit both stations. Also, a commuter rail station further east in downtown would help distribute loads and reduce the need to transfer to local transit.

  2. John EdwardsJohn Edwards

    That half-paved private road only feels forbidden until about the third time you ride it. Now it feels like my own private bike trail. And I love the new tunnel. Such a great connection to downtown.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      Agreed. I’ve been going through there a lot lately, having finally convinced myself that if the sign saying it’s a private road wasn’t stopping all of the other people using it, why should it stop me.

      I also rode over that collapsed orange fencing a few weeks ago, wondering why it still needed to be there (even though the bike path on the other side was not yet completed). Not having to turn connect to the big hills on West River Parkway is a huge improvement.

  3. Ron

    Have to disagree on this one. I ride that section all the time and it works fine. It’s little nuances on the route like this that makes cycling interesting.

  4. Chris Lautenschlager

    The Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association is actively looking for ways to complete the .6 mile trail from the Stone Arch Bridge and the UMN at the Dinkytown Greenway, currently held by the BNSF.

    Letters have been sent to potential stakeholders, in addition to the MHNA’s creation of the University-Area Mississippi River Trail Task Force, all meant to help advance this project.

    The MRT task force has raised funding to improve Dinkytown Greenway wayfinding, has worked to create awareness of this new trail (and this missing link), and wants to support the interested parties and agencies to complete it.

    We encourage all those who are interested in this issue to attend MHNA’s Transportation Forum on Tuesday August 12th, from 5 to 8 pm, at the Varsity Theater. This forum will include a discussion of Dinkytown Transportation Access proposal, the Dinkytown Greenway Wayfinding project, and the Dinkytown Stairs project. Please RSVP for this forum here:

  5. Matty LangMatty Lang

    My guess is that this spur is used only to supply the U’s coal plant with fuel. I’m not sure how realistic it would be for the U to do something other than burring coal at this location, but it would sure make the trail connection easier along with the usual benefits associated with coal plants going away.

    1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

      Most smaller plants are moving to natural gas because of new EPA regulations. I know the one at my college just removed their last coal boilers and are now all NG.

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