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Final link installed in trail system

Final link installed in trail system
A section of 7th Street NW is closed Saturday as a pedestrian bridge is put into place.

Rochester bicyclists are excited about the coming opening of a new bridge and trail length that could make pedaling to work more popular.

"There's a lot of people who are interested in riding their bikes for transportation purposes, but they're shy about that because they don't want to mix it up with traffic," said Charlie Quigg, chairman of the Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

Enter the new bridge. It picks up just north of U.S. 14 West, where a bridge installed last year crosses over the four-lane highway. The new bridge crosses over Seventh Street Northwest. The final segment of it was put in place Saturday.

From there, a new trail will run up a former Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad spur line, parallel with Valleyhigh Drive, to meet the Douglas Trailhead.

The trail and bridge will open in the fall.


Following the new route, a rider can go from a northwest Rochester neighborhood to Cascade Lake and downtown while avoiding clashes with motorized traffic at the 19th Street interchange, for example. Quigg, in fact, was hit by a car there on his bike several years ago.

Similarly, riders from Rochester's core neighborhoods will have a new route to follow to IBM.

"This really has the potential to provide a large part of our residents the opportunity to travel (by bike)," Quigg said. "Rochester has a great network of trails if you just want to go out for a ride, but if you actually want to get from Point A to Point B, it's kind of circuitous."

The $1.27 million bridge and trail project was budgeted using state and federal grants. Technically, however, the grants were switched to building 20th Street Southeast, which had been planned to use local sales tax dollars. The sales tax, in fact, went toward the bridge and trail project. The city had a financial incentive to swap the funds, said John Wellner of the city's Public Works Department.

The new bridge adds about 460 feet to the length of the already-existing 1,500-foot trail installed last year. Cranes hoisted a final 100-foot segment into place Saturday, temporarily stopping traffic on Seventh Street.

"Quite a few people are really looking forward to this, both for recreation and commuting," Wellner said. The 10-foot wide trail and bridge will be paved, but plans do not call for snow-plowing either of them this winter, he said.

Of course, with snow cover the route might be suitable for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, Wellner said.

"It's open all winter," he said.

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