A small bike trail along a former railroad spur could make a big difference for cyclists and pedestrians who use the Grand Round and other paths to access the West Midway area, Minneapolis and other destinations. The Saint Paul Planning Commission Transportation Committee heard an update on March 6 regarding work on the Wabash trail spur. Construction is scheduled to start this spring and be completed in June.

The spur will provide a connection to the Grand Round at Pelham Boulevard, which connects cyclists and walkers to Mississippi River Boulevard and other destinations. It also will provide a connection to a future  bikeway on Wabash Avenue. That  bikeway would link to Cleveland Avenue’s bike lanes, and to the north end of Westgate Commons Park. Long-term, the trail could tie into future freeway improvements as the state continues its Rethinking I-94 process.

Trail money coming from DNR, 8-80 Vitality Fund

The trail is being paid for with a $150,000 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources grant and $185,000 from the city’s 8-80 Vitality Fund. The latter dollars are left over from a 2014 program started by then-Mayor Chris Coleman. The city spent $42.5 million over the past nine years on various 8-80 projects. The Grand Round itself was given $13.2 million from the fund.

“It’s about as far west as you can go in Saint Paul,” said city landscape architect Dave Ronzani.

Trail located along former railroad spur

The new trail will be 12 feet wide and a quarter mile long. It will be located on a former railroad spur line west of Highway 280 and north of I-94, near the Saint Paul-Minneapolis border. The rail spur once served a large Weyerhaeuser Lumber facility.

“It’s about as far west as you can go in Saint Paul,” said Dave Ronzani, landscape architect for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

The trail starts at Berry and Myrtle streets. It then follows the rail spur and connects with Wabash at Eustis Street. Wabash crosses over Highway 280, just north of its interchange with I-94. Cyclists can share the bridge traffic lanes and pedestrians can use the bridge sidewalks to get to Pelham.

Bridges not part of current project

The Wabash Avenue bridge and railroad bridge are not included in the current project’s scope. That raised questions for some Transportation Committee members. They would like to see improvements made there in the future, possibly when the planned Wabash trail is built to the east.

Ronzani noted the trail provides a connection for an area that has high residential and office density. However, there is no good way to safely bike or walk in parts of the area.

— Jane McClure


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