Capital City Bikeway in downtown St. Paul

We Read the Regional Solicitation Applications, So You Don’t Have To

Regional Solicitation is a process by which various governments, agencies and NGOs can apply for federal funds distributed through the Metropolitan Council. Funds are awarded every other year, so these applications represent all new projects funded through Regional Solicitation until 2024.

From my perspective, Regional Solicitation is interesting because projects are competing for funds on a regional scale; projects are funded on the basis of their merits but also their adherence or advancement of regional goals and policies. Conversely, Regional Solicitation is exciting to me because the projects — given that they are competing for federal funds — seem more ambitious or transformative than, say, a street reconstruction with the traditional funding sources.

Some are projects that haven’t been included in long-term plans but have the opportunity to forward the goals of those plans. So while they can be undertaken by a transit agency, county government or municipality, Regional Solicitation projects are regionally a bit more interesting. You can find reporting on the Regional Solicitation in the Star Tribune and in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press.

(Disclaimer: I have never participated in the Regional Solicitation process and am understanding — or misunderstanding — that process as an engaged citizen and undercover dork. I work for an organization (Move Minnesota) that has received Regional Solicitation awards, but my work area is unaffected by them. I also serve as a volunteer on the City of Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) in a citizen seat on behalf of the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board. The opinions here are my own and do not represent my employer or the city committee on which I volunteer.)

Minneapolis (and Hennepin County) knows what bike infrastructure it likes

Map Credit: Metropolitan Council. Map of Met Council District 7 funded projects, containing west-of-the-river Minneapolis.

Curb-protected, street-level bikeways coming to existing routes within the City of Minneapolis: Marshall NE, Park and Portland, 9th and 10th streets, and 2nd Street North will be seeing big changes for the better. Changes will be happening on both city-controlled streets and county roads.

The changes will not be the entire length of these routes: Park and Portland north of the Greenway; 2nd between Plymouth and Dowling; and Marshall NE between Hennepin and Lowry. Some will be bi-directional trails, and some will be curb protected lanes, but all are planned to be protected by at least a curb, and most are planned for street (not sidewalk) level.

  • Park and Portland: Federal award $5.5 million. Total cost $8 million
  • 9th and 10th streets: Federal award $4.5 million. Total cost $5.5 million
  • 2nd St North: Federal award $4 million. Total cost $5 million
  • Marshal Northeast: Federal award $5 million. Total cost $6 million

North Side Greenway, part 1, through North Minneapolis: It has been in process for years and could still become anything from a bike boulevard to a total street greening and closure to motor vehicles. The application details how much this project has been agonized over. We can hope that continuing community engagement leads to a proposal that is locally desired, coherently designed and widely used.

  • Northside Greenway, part 1: Federal award $4 million. Total cost $5 million

1st Avenue North (in downtown) is getting a long planned pedestrian overhaul, which will involve widening the sidewalks and removing bike lanes, now that cycle paths are open on Hennepin. This move apparently was part of the deal from way back when, but I imagine it will take folks by surprise.

  • 1st Avenue: Federal award $2 million. Total cost $12 million

St. Paul: keeping it boring (or at least predictable)

I say it with love. St. Paul has a plan and is sticking to it. St. Paul, with Ramsey County assists, got awards for the continued implementation of the Capital City Bikeway plan, as well as street reconstruction plans in historically underinvested neighborhoods.

Rebuilding Rice Street, with a Multi-Use Path: Rice Street north, a Ramsey County street, is being built with a multi-use path on one side. Although the project is excellent for local access, a multi-use path on a commercial mixed-use street may not be first choice for regional connections to St. Paul bikeways.  

  • Federal award: $7 million. Total cost: $36 million  

Rebuilding Minnehaha Avenue: St. Paul is planning to add painted, unprotected bike lanes to Minnehaha on the east side. In the year 2023. This is still St. Paul we’re talking about, but the lane reduction is not terrible.  

  • Federal award: $5 million. Total cost $6.5 million
Map by the City of Saint Paul. Note- the Capital City Bikeway is funded from multiple sources and is being constructed through multiple phases.

The Capital City Bikeway is getting money. St. Paul may be inexplicably adding paint bike lanes elsewhere in the 2020s, but the carefully planned Capital City Bikeway in downtown St. Paul puts downtown Minneapolis’ piecemeal approach to shame.

  • Wabasha reconstruction: Federal award $5 million. Total cost $6.5 million
  • Kellogg phase 3: Federal award $5.5 million. Total cost $9.5 million
  • St. Peter: Federal award $5.5 million. Total cost $8 million

Excitingly, the Point Douglas Trail Master Plan from Battle Creek to the Newport/I-494 Bridge includes three miles of trail paralleling the Mississippi. This will mean dedicated trails on both sides of the river from Newport to Anoka County. That’s a big circle.

  • Federal award $5.5 million. Total cost $7 million

What’s going on in the Valley?

Burnsville is getting grade separation and a roundabout at Highway 13 and Nicollet between the Burnsville Heart of the City transit station and the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority (MVTA) transit center. This intersection is deadly, with two folks on foot killed this year alone. A less expensive and long-term solution to this problem would be rerouting US Highway 13 along Cliff Road, but this fix has the urgency of saving lives.

  • Federal contribution: $10 million. Total cost: $32 million 
Diagram Credit: City Of Burnsville

New MVTA Express Service:

Brooklyn Center to Shakopee, Capitol/Rice Street to Burnsville:
I trust that the MVTA knows what they’re doing with these two new express routes between Minnesota Valley employers and neighborhoods. I didn’t find a proposed schedule for these plans. But based on the supporting documentation in the application, I’ll characterize these as “Reverse Commute” express services for workers who live in Brooklyn Center and work in Shakopee, and another one for folks who live near Capitol/Rice Street on the Green Line and commute to Burnsville. Suburb to suburb and reverse commutes are currently poorly served throughout most of the Metro, and are frequently cited as places where transit service should improve. However, the applications are calling for peak-style service rather than consistent service in both directions along the routes. Both of these projects were done in discussion with employers and the folks who work for them, and we can only trust the MVTA that the routes are well conceived. These new routes could be proving grounds for changing express services and suburb to suburb connections.

  • Brooklyn Center to Shakopee: Federal award $4 million. Total cost $5 million
  • Capitol/Rice Street to Burnsville: Federal award $3 Million. Total cost $3.5 million

Another pedestrian bridge by a Red Line Station, this one incorporating a multi-use trail along 140th Street. It will be good for the walkability and bikeability of Apple Valley, which, like every suburb, has a lot of cars.

  • Federal award $2 million. Total cost $3 million

Is Metro Transit keeping up?

Metro Transit was invited to this party, too! 

Blue Line Station updates: Metro Transit is planning to overcome serious shortcomings at Lake Street Midtown: maintenance infrastructure, large elevators/ ramp possibility, easier legibility from the street, attempted safety improvements through cameras and street visibility. There’s a telling mention of shelteredness of vertical circulation structures (stairs and elevators)- which sounds like they may open them to watchful eyes and the Minnesota elements.

  • Federal award: $7 million. Total cost: $8.5 million 

38th Street Station: Metro Transit is overhauling bus circulation, unfolding the current dogbone layout, and creating a big new opportunity for Transit Oriented Development (TOD) at 38th Street Station on the Blue Line. The dogbone-shaped bus circulator is being broken and stretched out, with lengthy discussion of how much better the new arrangement will work for buses (with the bonus of opportunity for development). Only one parcel is being purchased in this process, and layouts show that the Cardinal Restaurant and Bar survives.

  • Federal award: $5 million. Total cost: $6.5 million 
Diagram of 38th Street Station updates from Metro Transit

Route 3A extension: Metro Transit plans to move route 3A service off of Rice Street, sending it down the future H line route to Sun Ray Transit Center/ the Gold Line. Metro Transit promises improved service along Rice to compensate. It’s good to be building ridership for a future ABRT line. 

  • Federal award: $6.5 million. Total cost: $8.5 million 

North Metro Minute

Anoka County will be adding a proper bike/pedestrian  path to the existing 44th Street NE bridge over the railroad tracks in Fridley.

  • Federal award $2 million. Total cost 2.5 million

There will be tweaks, improvements and flood-zone relocation for Shingle Creek Trail through various points in Brooklyn Center.

  • Federal award $2.5 million Total cost $3 Million
Map of the Bruce Vento Trail Extension. Credit: Ramsey County

The Bruce Vento Trail is being extended all the way to White Bear Lake. The application makes mention of the sickly Purple Line’s ill-fated original route, but the trail seems to be getting funded. On a personal note, this could be great for Twin Cities to Duluth riders. 

  • Federal award $4 million. Total cost $7 million

What did I miss?

Minneapolis, with the help of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), is working on the 5th Street Transit Center at the ABC ramps, trying to “update them” as they are apparently halfway through their useful life. From the tone of the application, it sounds like the ABC ramps are languishing in the new era of hybrid work. This transit station update (maybe) could help. 

  • Federal award $2 million. Total cost: $2.5 million 

There are plenty of interchange projects way out in the ‘burbs that I don’t feel like learning about. Roundabouts and Reduced Conflict Intersections are being built way out in places I’ve never been.

SouthWest Prime, the on-demand ride service offered in the far-southwestern metro, is getting an extension of the service area along the current northern edge.

  • Federal award $5.5 million. Total cost $7 million

Dive in yourself!

Construction on these projects won’t begin for a while. The projects approved in 2022 won’t see funds released until 2026 and 2027, so four years out is generally a safe guess. However, projects are often done in phases, so earlier phases from past Regional Solicitations may begin construction in the interim. Each project has a minimum 20% local match, so presumably some things could be paid for before the funding is released. Some projects are still in planning and negotiating-with-a-railroad phases, which make them wild cards. Don’t expect this collection of Regional Solicitation Awards to come all at once.

This is merely an overview of Regional Solicitation awards. I may have overlooked a transformative project in your community — and, as my earlier disclaimer noted, I’m just a person off the street who cares about the place where I live.

I invite you to dive into these projects, make your own comparisons and judgments, or rigorously question my prioritization of an exciting collection of projects. And if you love or hate what you see in the Regional Solicitation funding process, know that the next round of awards will be in 2024, so there’s time to weigh in on a local level about how you want the region to transform itself.

Author’s note: All cost figures are rounded to the nearest half million. Click here for the list of awarded projects with costs. The complete applications for all projects awarded, which I reference as “the application,” can be found by clicking here.

Photo of Capital City Bikeway, at top, courtesy of Goff Public

Max Singer

About Max Singer

Max Singer is Minneapolis born, raised, and returned. He's had a lot of odd jobs and wacky experiences for being Gen-Z. Max gets around- at times by foot, bicycle, light rail, bus, car, boat, delivery van, train, and sometimes, escalator.