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More sustainable ways to get around the Twin Cities Mississippi River corridor

January 26, 2012Patrick NunnallyRiversComments Off on More sustainable ways to get around the Twin Cities Mississippi River corridor

One of the (many) difficulties in managing a large urban river so that the river corridor is sustainable is how to get a handle on transportation.  On one hand, you want the people of the city to know, love, and protect their river.  On the other hand, many of those folks are going to want to visit by car, which causes a whole host of problems:  parking places, air pollution, contributions to sedentary lifestyle.  The list goes on.

But a potential solution in the case of the Twin Cities Mississippi River is on the horizon.  The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MISS) has received over $1 million dollars from the  Federal Transit Administration and NPS Category III funds to implement a partnership, multi-modal, alternative transportation project that builds on  existing public transit, Nice Ride MN’s bike share program, and existing river access.  Over $843,000 came directly from the Federal Transit  Administration, as announced by Administrator Peter Rogoff.

“We are extremely pleased to receive this funding” said Superintendent Paul Labovitz.  “It will help us develop a seamless, alternative  transportation system that improves the park visitor experience by reducing congestion and pollution.  It will also help minimize impacts to park  resources.” he said.  The project builds upon an extensive network of transportation facilities in the Twin Cities.  It will enable park visitors  and area residents to travel throughout the park without a car.

Labovitz continued, “This project is a terrific example of how MISS is fulfilling NPS Director Jon Jarvis’ Call to Action and America’s Great Outdoors initiatives.  We  are proud to be able to advance the mission of the National Park Service in such a profound way by connecting the two great urban communities of  Minneapolis and St. Paul to the parks, trails, and community green spaces along the Mississippi River.”

“The bike share stations are the centerpiece of the project”, said Project Manager Susan Overson.  “We are working with Nice Ride MN to install the  stations, improve awareness for NPS, while connecting park visitors with MISS destinations and river access.  Our long-term goal is to develop a  seamless, park-wide system that enables park visitors to commute via bike or transit, have a combination bike/paddle experience, or enjoy access to  the river without a car”.

The MISS project is part of Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood’s announcement of the $40.8 million awarded to federal agencies through the Paul S.  Sarbanes Transit in Parks (TRIP) program. See
http://www.fta.dot.gov/documents/TransitInParks2011POST.pdf for a complete list of projects.

Locally, the project includes 19 Nice Ride MN bike share stations, 50 ADA bus pads and sidewalk connections; new signage  and marketing efforts for the evolving MISS alternative transportation system, and pedestrian connections to a 72-mile segment of the Mississippi  River Trail (MRT).  The MRT begins at the Mississippi’s headwaters in northern Minnesota and passes through 14 national parks and wildlife refuges,  including MISS, on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

The project also aligns well with Minneapolis’ “Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Program”, administered by Bike/Walk Twin Cities.  In 2006, Minneapolis was one of four localities awarded federal funds to complete a seamless non-motorized network that connects trails, bicycle lanes, sidewalks, and mass transit in the area.  The MISS Alternative Transportation System will complement these efforts and increase bike-ability and  non-motorized connections to the river

One of the first steps in completing this complex project is to convene a work group to start project implementation and define the entire MNRRAAlternative Transportation System (ATS).  Early steps include development of an on-line scoping tool to prioritize and select projects for future funding requests, and updating a GIS data base, with the assistance of the NPS Denver Service Center and HDR, Inc.  Volpe Transportation Center (USDOT) is helping to define the MNRRA ATS and assisting with the pilot project’s implementation.

Park staff are working with staff from Nice Ride MN to figure out the best number and location of stations, and hope to be able to put more stations on the ground in years ahead, contingent on Federal funding.

Great things are ahead!

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River Life in Video
Come Along for a Water Walk with Kare11 and River Life, and see Gifts at Work: The Mississippi River by the University of Minnesota Foundation
Open Rivers: Rethinking the Mississippi
A joint project of River Life, the Institute for Advanced Study, and the University of Minnesota Libraries, Open Rivers is an interdisciplinary online journal that recognizes the Mississippi River as a space for timely and critical conversations about people, community, water, and place.