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First Look: Cedar Lake Trail Phase III

The Cedar Lake Trail extension  is currently under construction in downtown Minneapolis.  Engineers plan to have the trail completed and open for trail users sometime this spring.  I happened to be in the area a few days ago, so I stopped to take a few photos.  I thought some of you might be interested in a “first look” at a portion of the new trail.

This is a photo of the trail entrance – it’s surprisingly well-plowed for a trail that isn’t open yet:

1 - Cedar Lake Trail Phase III

1 - Cedar Lake Trail Phase III by VeloTraffic, on Flickr

The trail is bound by 6′ chain-link fences on both sides of the trail. This tends to make trail users feel vulnerable since there are no “escape routes.” I suspect that given the context of the trail, however, there really weren’t any other options. Notice how the pedestrian portion of the trail (under snow on right) is concrete, while the bicycle portion is asphalt.

2 - Cedar Lake Trail Phase III

2 - Cedar Lake Trail Phase III by VeloTraffic, on Flickr

Recessed striping helps to keep the lines safe from snow plows.

Recessed Trail Striping

Recessed Trail Striping by VeloTraffic, on Flickr

The most unique aspect of this trail is that a portion of it is underneath Target Field, the new home of the Minnesota Twins.

Cedar Lake Trail Under Target Field

Cedar Lake Trail Under Target Field by VeloTraffic, on Flickr

I’ll be curious to see how crowded this space gets after a game lets out.

Trail under Target Field

Trail under Target Field by VeloTraffic, on Flickr

North of Target Field, the trail opens up to a bunch of parking lots on the east side of the trail.  The Northstar Commuter Rail station is just across the fence to the west.  Unfortunately, there is no connection between the transit station and the new trail.  In fact, as I stopped on the trail and took photos of the transit station, it wasn’t exactly clear how I would get to the station from the trail.

Cedar Lake Trail Downtown Minneapolis

Cedar Lake Trail Downtown Minneapolis by VeloTraffic, on Flickr

Cedar Lake Trail Northstar Rail

Cedar Lake Trail Northstar Rail by VeloTraffic, on Flickr

I will be interested to see how easy it is to access downtown from the trail once the trail is officially open.  As I cycled by the back sides of these buildings, it wasn’t clear exactly how or where I could get off the trail and onto one of the surface streets into downtown.  Hopefully the city plans to install some wayfinding signs along the trail to help cyclists transition from the trail onto surface streets.

Cedar Lake Trail Parking Lot

Cedar Lake Trail Parking Lot by VeloTraffic, on Flickr

Cedar Lake Trail Lighting

Cedar Lake Trail Lighting by VeloTraffic, on Flickr

Cedar Lake Trail

Cedar Lake Trail by VeloTraffic, on Flickr

For now, this is where the trail ends, just north of Washington Avenue.

Cedar Lake Trail Construction

Cedar Lake Trail Construction by VeloTraffic, on Flickr

Like most cyclists in the Twin Cities, I’m very excited for this stretch of trail to open. This project has been pretty heavily scrutinized because of the hefty price tag. The City has estimated that this project will cost over $7 million for just over one mile of trail. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this was the most expensive mile of trail ever constructed in the US that didn’t involve constructing a bridge. Still, even the projects biggest detractors must surely admit that this portion of trail will be heavily used for both recreation and transportation cycling.

In fact, if there’s one thing I’m fairly confident about, it’s that there will be bicycle and pedestrian traffic congestion on this trail, similar to the congestion we see at points along the Midtown Greenway on any Saturday Morning throughout the summer months.

14 comments to First Look: Cedar Lake Trail Phase III

  • Thanks for the write-up. I spend a lot of time looking down at this trail but I haven’t tried it out yet, mostly because I see a lot of people stopped at the Washington Ave part looking confused and trying to figure out where to go. I guess it’s cool that the trail is open now but there could be a sign telling people that it doesn’t connect.

    I’ve never been able to find a detailed layout for this project, but I don’t think connection to the Northstar station is part of it. The Interchange project also doesn’t seem to be prioritizing connection to the trail, but some design teams did include it in a recent workshop (http://theinterchange.net/images/documents/design_workshop_final_report_january_2011.pdf). You’d think that they could have included a trail connection into the stadium design, but they probably needed every square foot for hot dog freezers or player pedicure stations or something.

    Based on what you can see from 2nd St, it does kind of look like there will be a trail connection there, at least.

  • Alex, I hadn’t seen that Interchange report yet. Thanks for sending that along. I haven’t seen any layouts for the project either. We know that the trail will connect to West River Road (based on this rendering available on the City web site). The best part of this rendering is that the it shows the trail access point being plowed shut by a mound of snow (which, I guess, kudos to them for what is unfortunately an accurate portrayal of what it will probably look like).

    It’s too bad the trail doesn’t directly connect to the Northstar Station, but at least we can all be glad that this concept didn’t happen!

  • Greg

    Cool! Thanks for the description and pics. I emailed the engineer in charge of this project, and she said it will be open all the way to W. River Road by early June, 2011.
    See http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/cip/cedarlaketrail/

    I just have to note that I run to/from work at the UofMN from Saint Louis Park, and will be extremely happy when phase III is complete, since I will no longer have to fight traffic downtown!

  • Glen Leslie

    This is cool! Thanks for the pics and description. At this point, is there any way out when it stops before Washington Ave? In other words is it a true dead end? I’d love to start using it now if at the end there was a way to get back on to the nearby street. I’m guessing there’s fence all around so it’s blocked, but maybe not. Do you know?

  • @Glen – as I said in the post, it was pretty difficult for me to figure out exactly where a person could get on or off this trail and get onto the city streets. There are plenty of places where a rider isn’t fenced in, though. You could ride directly onto any one of the parking lots along the trail. But clearly, if cars can get from the surface streets into the parking lots, a bike could use the same path, I just couldn’t tell where the driveways were from the path. I don’t get downtown very often, though. If you’re more familiar with that part of downtown, you might not have any trouble at all. I’d say give it a shot.

  • Bart

    @greg – do you run with your wife and dog most days? I think I recognize you as one of the fellow commuter runners. I run 1 day a week and bike the other 3 or 4.

    @glen – once you get past the stadium there are surface lots on the east side of the trail as described in the post. These lots connect to Washington ave on the north or to 3rd Ave on the east. But, for the last few weeks the trail has been closed as construction has resumed after the winter break so we’ll all have to wait another month or so for any of this access to be available.

    Can’t wait as the downtown section of my ride/run to work is by far the most dangerous and this trail will eliminate it completely!

  • Greg

    @Bart — Ha! Yep, that is us! I too look forward to when the trail will go all the way through! Give me a shout next time you see us on the trail (which will be next Tuesday for us).

  • Bart

    @Greg – Cool! Great to connect a name to some fellow trail users. I’ll be sure to say hello the next time I see you on the trail.

  • Greg

    @Bart, was that you (w/ the dreadlocks) I saw this morning running over on W River Road? If so, “howdy again!” If not, then there is another regular friendly trail user that runs…

    To what place of employment do you commute (I know you said you were a traffic engineer)?

  • Bart

    @Greg – nope, wasn’t me. Nice to know other people are using the trails to run to work! I’m actually a software engineer, not a traffic engineer. I work in the warehouse district in DT and commute from near Lake Harriet. I’ll see you one of these days!

  • Ok the fence was down this morning so I was able to check out the new section (to Washington Ave at least). A great trail. I love going under part of the ball park. I was able to cut over onto one of the parking lots (behind the strip club) and get out to Washington.

    On the way home (from the U), I saw where the Cedar trail will connect to the River Road trail. Looks like some tight quarters they’re working in to complete that last section. No wonder it costs $$$. It wasn’t paved yet, but it looks like alot of it is graded. Shouldn’t be long now.

    Boy taking the cedar and then the River Road trail has got to be one of the greatest bike trail connections in America. The views of the city, the river, the ball park – it’s pretty incredible and not to be taken for granted.

    glen

  • Greg

    @Bart,
    Yep, I see a lot of “regulars” on bike, so a regular runner with a day pack and dreadlocks definitely stands out! Glad to hear you have a legit day time gig (no dissing towards traffic engineers, but… ;-).

    Btw, that wasn’t you in a van this morning right by the Federal Reserve Bldg.trying to talk to me, was it?

    @Glen,
    Needless to say, since once the trail is complete, being able to step out of my door and hop on the trail West of Cedar Lake and commute all the way by trail to the UofMN is a definite treat and a half that I will never take for granted!

  • JIM

    The trail extension was to open “by June”.
    Has it?

  • Greg

    @Jim,
    Yep, ran it this morning and then this afternoon. No more Downtown traffic/smokers/lights/etc. to worry about! Can virtually hop out of our door onto the trail now and go straight through to the UofMN campus. Yippee!

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