What’s Velo?

VĂ©lo is the French word for bike.

First Look: Mississippi River Regional Trail (MRRT) Central & Pine Bend Bluffs Segments

Last fall, I really enjoyed reading the series of great posts from Chris Chavie at MN Bike Trail Navigator about the progress being made on the construction of the Mississippi River Regional Trail in South Saint Paul. Seeing as how it is now nearly a full year later, I figured construction must be just about wrapped up on these trails, so I went out to snap some photos and experience the new trail. This trail is a pretty big deal, and will be an important part of the regional trail network once the remaining segments of the trail are constructed (scheduled through 2015 according to the Dakota County website).

I was a bit surprised to discover that construction is not yet complete, and even more surprised to discover that some portions will need to be fully reconstructed (as you will see in the following photos). The trail is separated into two segments, Central & Pine Bend Bluffs. Chris has already done a pretty great job detailing the alignment of the trail, so I won’t try to duplicate that. I’ll mostly just post photos as a bit of a photo tour with a few bits of commentary.

Mississippi River Regional Trail Map

Mississippi River Regional Trail Map

Pine Bend Bluffs Segment

Generally, this section of trail was quite lovely. Smooth pavement and gentle curves and hills. The designers did a lovely job fitting the alignment in what is clearly rough terrain and right-of-way limitations. There are a number of locations where there are steep slopes, wetlands, and drainage ravines and I generally thought the trail was excellent.

The Pine Bend Bluffs Segment ends abruptly just south of 117th Street. A future trail is planned to continue to the south, but for the time being, the trail starts here:

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Heading north, the trail is sandwiched between two fences. This is never a good feeling for a cyclist, though I trust there was no other option through here.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment – Crossing 117th Street

The striping was a bit inconsistent throughout the corridor. Some portions were striped with a centerline, others were not. Generally, curves were marked while straight segments were not marked, though this was not always the case. Some curves were unmarked while some straight segments were marked.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

As much as I dislike having a trail sandwiched between two fences, I was a little surprised that there was no railing along the bluff side of the trail in a few places. The bluff can be quite steep and not very far away from the trail.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

In Chris’ latest post, he mentioned that some portion of the Pine Bend Bluffs segment was still unpaved, and I can confirm that this is still the situation, though it is quite unclear why this section was not paved with the rest of the trail.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment - Unfinished Section

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment – Unfinished Section

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Then I happened upon something interesting, a full failure of a sheet piling retaining wall which can be seen in the distance of this next photo.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

At this location, the trail must cross a bit of a drainage ravine. A sheet piling retaining wall design was used to allow the trail to cross the ravine. As the following photos show, this wall has completely failed, the trail has experienced extreme settling.

Total failure of sheet piling retaining wall

Total failure of sheet piling retaining wall

Total failure of sheet piling retaining wall

Total failure of sheet piling retaining wall

Total failure of sheet piling retaining wall

Total failure of sheet piling retaining wall

Continuing north, the trail is once again quite lovely.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

There is a scenic overlook, which does indeed provide excellent scenery.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Moving along, I encountered another short trail segment where the trail passes through a bit of a wetland or pond area. Again, the trail has experienced some pretty substantial settling in this area (6″-8″), though the sheet piling retaining walls have not failed as spectacularly as the previous location.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

There are at least two locations along this trail segment where private unpaved driveways cross the trail. In both locations, the trail is stop controlled and the driveways are given priority movement over the trail. Of course, no cyclist or pedestrian will ever stop.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

The north end of the trail connects to the existing trail parallel to Courthouse Boulevard.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Overall the Pine Bend Bluffs Segment of the MRRT is a wonderful trail. I am curious to see how the sheet piling retaining walls have held up this past weekend with the torrential rains. HOMEWORK: someone go take some new photos and see if they look any different.

Central Segment

The Central Segment was also quite lovely, and the engineers and designers deserve some credit for constructing a trail through this rough terrain. Again, there is one short segment that remains unpaved (not pictured).

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Central Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Central Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Central Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Central Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Central Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Central Segment

Again, much of the trail is supported by a sheet piling retaining wall, however in this case, the tops of the piles have been capped with concrete.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Central Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Central Segment

This railroad bridge received quite a lot of attention.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Central Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Central Segment

Anyway, that’s all the photos I have for now. The rest of the Central segment is typical sidepaths – critical for connectivity but not particularly exciting or photogenic.

Has anybody been out to ride the trail yet? What do you think?

6 comments to First Look: Mississippi River Regional Trail (MRRT) Central & Pine Bend Bluffs Segments

  • I recently traded E-mails with MnDOT regarding the MRT and USBR 45. They tell me the Inver Grove-to-Hastings section (presumably including what you photographed here) will be completed next year (2014).

  • Dan Farmer

    I was out on the trail for the first time today and noticed the failures that you mentioned. I emailed Chris about it, and he linked me to your excellent article. As I told Chris, somewhere right now, some engineer is saying “Oops! My bad!” LOL!

    I agree, though that they have done an excellent job of planning and laying out the trail. Even the steeper sections weren’t all that steep (still fun going down at 20+ mph, though!)

  • Holly Weik

    Let’s go ride it sometime in the next month. Roundtrip should be a long but manageable day.

  • The only segment of the MRT I’ve seen is the side-path along East River Road. That looked decidedly unappealing, but the pics here make the other segments look more intriguing.

    The stop sign issue seems common for rural trails (and sometimes urban ones). As you note, they’re pretty ineffective, and it seems rather patronizing when engineers take it upon themselves to reinvent right-of-way. I’m very curious how that actually plays out in the case of accident liability. My understanding is that, depending on the circumstance, public bike trails are either regarded as highways or sidewalks. In either case, a vehicle exiting a driveway is obligated to stop/yield. While stop signs designate a through highway, I don’t believe there’s any concept of a through driveway. In fact, I can’t even find any basis to think that cyclists are required to stop at all when it’s not an intersection.

    • Yes, I don’t know how this all stacks up in court. Of course, engineers are free to place stop signs wherever they like, even if there are no intersections at all. Ever seen a mid-block stop sign?

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>