In 2019 and 2020, DNR will construct a new segment of the Minnesota Valley State Trail (MVST) in Bloomington, expanding opportunities to explore the scenic Minnesota River Valley. The new segment (labeled Phase 1A on the map) will extend approximately 1.7 miles east from Lyndale Avenue on the north side of the river.
Already paved for 10 miles from Chaska to the Bloomington Ferry Bridge in Shakopee, the MVST will continue to expand in phases as funding becomes available. Development of the Bloomington segment is a first step toward connecting the paved section of the trail between Shakopee and Chaska to the paved trail system on the east that goes from Fort Snelling State Park to Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis.
- Why is this section of the trail being developed?
The MVST was established by legislation in 1969 to run along the Minnesota River Valley from Fort Snelling State Park to the city of LeSueur. At present, 27 miles of trail between Shakopee and Belle Plaine have been developed or improved. Of those 27 miles, approximately 10 have been developed as paved, multi-use trail. The remaining 17 are natural-surface trail.
In 2014, the Minnesota Legislature appropriated $2.165 million for development of a trail running from the Bloomington Ferry Bridge to the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. The DNR, in consultation with the City of Bloomington and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the primary landowners in the corridor), has focused initial development efforts on the segment between Cedar Avenue (State Highway 77) and Lyndale Avenue (Interstate 35W). Development of this segment was chosen as the first phase in order to take advantage of public interest in the rehabilitated Old Cedar Avenue Bridge, as well as the opportunity to create a loop experience with the Dakota County Greenway across the river.
- Is paving necessary?
The project will include both a paved trail and natural surface trails. The paved trail will be 10 feet wide, which meets Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and allows people of all abilities to enjoy the Minnesota River Valley. Much of the natural surface trail that currently exists in the project area will remain in its current location. Every effort will be made to re-establish natural surface trails that are impacted by construction of the paved trail. In certain locations, where there is not sufficient space for both trails, all users may be routed onto the paved trail. Natural surface trails will be managed by the City of Bloomington and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Here is a map of the proposed trail layout.
- When will construction begin?
The DNR selected a contractor in late 2018 for segment 1A on the linked map. Work on this segment will likely begin in August 2019 and be completed during the 2020 construction season.
- How much will this project cost?
The low bid for construction of the trail segment 1A came in at $3.16 million. This is a particularly complicated section of the trail, because it includes installation of three open-bottom culverts (bridge structures) across streams that drain into the Minnesota River.
The cost of Segment 1A should not be used to try to estimate the cost of developing the rest of the trail. Section 1B, for comparison, will require no bridges and would likely cost less than $1 million if we could contract for it today.
- What’s the plan for the rest of the trail?
The DNR plans to take advantage of opportunities to build other segments as funding is secured.
Segment 1B, as currently designed, would cross lands owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The DNR is currently working with USFWS to obtain a right-of-way permit to construct on refuge property. If funding is available, this segment is proposed to be constructed during the 2020 and/or 2021 construction seasons.
The DNR has no estimate for when the entire length of the trail might be developed.
- Will the public have the opportunity to comment on the project?
The DNR hosted two open houses and a series of stakeholder meetings in the spring and summer of 2018. Public comments were collected during and after those meetings as well as during the State of Minnesota environmental review process. As future segments are planned, the DNR will work with project partners to provide opportunities for the public to engage in the development process.