For decades, the 4.5-mile Canadian Pacific Railway spur between Highland Park and the vicinity of West Seventh Street and Saint Clair Avenue was a lifeline for Ford Motor Company’s Twin Cities Assembly Plant. Auto parts were transported in and new cars and trucks were transported out of the assembly plant on trains that kept America rolling and Saint Paul working. Today, the CP Rail spur and the 45-acre right-of-way it occupies are idle as the 122-acre Ford site is repurposed as a mixed-use development of new homes and businesses.

However, just as the spur was vital to the operation of the Ford Plant prior to its closing, so it is vital today to a future vision of mobility for the urban villages springing up along its path.

Ford spur
Canadian Pacific Railway’s now idle spur runs between the old Ford Plant site and the intersection of West Seventh Street and Saint Clair Avenue.

These villages include Highland Bridge on the Ford site, the housing development on the old Riverview School property at Montreal Avenue and West Seventh Street, Sibley Manor and Sibley Plaza, and the new housing and retail establishments at the former Schmidt Brewery site.

With trails and transit, this vision for the CP Rail spur could reduce our reliance on automobiles by promoting walking, biking and mass transit to and from jobs, schools, shopping and medical appointments. The spur could serve as a safe alternative to West Seventh Street with a trail and dedicated transit line between Randolph Avenue and Sibley Plaza and a trail, transit line and two-lane road between Sibley Plaza and the Ford site—now Highland Bridge.


For bicyclists, being safely off West Seventh on wide trails and with minimal street crossings means riding end-to-end at a Midtown Greenway pace of 10-15 mph with excellent access to bike trails along Shepard Road and Mississippi River Boulevard. And since the spur passes by Sibley Plaza and comes within steps of West Seventh at Randolph and Jefferson Avenues, it would offer easy access for walkers and cyclists to shops and workplaces as well as other transit connections.

A repurposed CP Rail spur is unmatched in how it could meet the needs of the West End and Highland Park neighborhoods for regional mobility and local goals for a cleaner environment.

For transit users, a repurposed CP Rail spur makes possible the dual concept of slower transit with frequent stops on West Seventh and faster and farther-reaching light-rail transit along the spur with stations at densely populated activity centers.


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Better than the Midtown Greenway

West End riders could, with a connection to the light-rail Blue Line, travel directly to downtown Minneapolis, Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport and the Mall of America at 15 mph faster than currently possible on bus and light rail. Hundreds of destinations would become easily accessible within an acceptable transit window, affording the community unprecedented transit mobility. You could live at Sibley Manor and get to downtown Minneapolis in under 20 minutes.

For Highland Bridge residents, the CP Rail spur’s wide right-of-way south of the Ford site can, in addition to trail and transit, accommodate two traffic lanes to and from Highway 5 and the adjacent network of freeways, relieving potentially crushing traffic congestion when the Ford site development is fully built out with 3,800 new homes and a host of new offices.

A repurposed CP Rail spur is unmatched in how it could meet the needs of the West End and Highland Park neighborhoods for regional mobility and local goals for a cleaner environment. It would accelerate development where the spur is closest to shops and transit stations while leaving the rest of West Seventh to develop in a more deliberate manner. Throw in proximity to the airport, the Mississippi River and both downtowns, and a repurposed CP Rail spur could easily exceed the redevelopment potential of another repurposed rail line, South Minneapolis’ Midtown Greenway.

Now, thanks to a merger dispute involving spur owner CP Rail, Kansas City Southern and Canadian National railways, CP Rail will be currying federal, state and local support. There is no better time to engage CP Rail in conveying to the public a local asset it no longer needs. If you agree, contact your elected representatives at the local, state and federal levels and tell them it is time we reaped the enormous potential of a repurposed CP Rail spur.

—Jerome Johnson

Jerome Johnson is a retired transportation economist who specialized in rail corridor transactions. A Summit Hill resident, he is affiliated with Citizen Advocates for Regional Transportation.


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