The City of Minneapolis has completed plans for Phase II of the Midtown Greenway. Under the project’s current schedule, the Greenway should extend to new communities and neighborhoods in Midtown Minneapolis by the end of the year. Trails, ramps, lighting, and retaining walls are designed and ready for construction, and Phase II will stretch from Fifth Avenue on the west to Hiawatha Avenue on the east. This addition required more concentrated planning and design work than Phase I, but after careful consideration and compromise, the Greenway has a design that will serve diverse needs.
The primary challenge to completing Phase II was the Cepro Grain Elevator site, which was the last remaining customer of the Canadian Pacific Railroad in the Corridor. Hennepin County provided critical leadership and financial resources to the project by acquiring the elevator site and freeing the railroad to pull up its tracks and abandon the Corridor. Canadian Pacific will tear up the tracks this Spring and mitigate any environmental problems associated with its use of the Corridor, allowing Phase II construction to begin on-time.
The rail abandonment procedure and federal funding used for construction triggered historic review by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). The Corridor’s associations with early 20th century engineering, urban planning, and transportation, plus its unique solution to public safety concerns make it eligible for placement on the National Register of Historic Places. SHPO worked to ensure that the Phase II design would not harm the Corridor’s historic integrity. One result of that work is that retaining walls for ramps and the grade separation will be constructed from a modular block different than the one used in Phase I. This new concrete block will be much larger than the Phase I block, and is designed to better fit the historical, industrial nature of the Corridor.
Planning for future transit is also a critical component of the Phase II design. Hennepin County is delaying its Midtown transit planning until it has completed a transit study for the Southwest Corridor, but ensuring that transit has room in Phase II was a critical design challenge. The Midtown Greenway Coalition and Hennepin County worked together to find solutions to future transit plans that would not interfere with the biking and pedestrian experience. Retaining walls will not be as high as originally planned, transit will have the necessary space, and construction costs will not expand significantly.
Through the efforts of Mary Altman at the City’s Office of Cultural Affairs, the ramp railings will contain a public art component consistent with the ideas set forth in the Public Art Master Plan.
The Phase II design process is complete, but the public bidding, final engineering, and public approval process will take several more months. A wide variety of interested public entities must weigh in on the Phase II expansion. The Minnesota Department of Transportation must approve the budget and plans, because federal funding is part of the finance package, and MnDOT will act as the federal agent for this project. Hennepin County owns the rail right-of-way, and thus ultimately the Greenway, so it must approve plans.
By the end of July, the City will let the contract for bids, and within three weeks of that time, select a contractor. Construction will begin by the end of the Summer, and could be complete as early as this Fall.