Mississippi River trail construction will not happen this year
A planned recreational trail along the Mississippi River in Rosemount will have to wait for at least a year and maybe more as Dakota County tries to come up with a new route.
The county will go back to the drawing board on the trail after an agreement on a route with Union Pacific Railroad failed to satisfy county commissioners.
Once it is built, the Rosemount segment of the trail will connect on the north to a trail that currently begins in South St. Paul and on the south to a yet-to-be-built segment that will run through Spring Lake Park and connect to a trail that continues into Hastings.
But there have been challenges with the Rosemount segment related to concerns about safety at two railroad crossings in the area. The county spent three years negotiating with the railroad to find a solution, but when the railroad found a route it could accept county commissioners rejected it because they did not feel like it would provide a good user experience for the people who would bike, walk or run on the trail. The new alignment would have moved the trail farther from the tracks but closer to Pine Bend Trail.
"It just wasn't the kind of trail and user experience this cost justified," said Jay Stassen, the assistant county attorney who is working on the project.
The roughly four mile segment of the trail in Rosemount is expected to cost $3 million. The trail will run parallel to Minnesota Highway 55 on Flint Hills Resources property, past the Pine Bend Cemetery and east from there to the Spring Lake Park Reserve archery range parking lot.
Stassen expects county parks and transportation staff to start meeting soon to discuss new options for the trail. Those options could include moving the trail further away from the tracks or building tunnels or bridges to get trail users past the railroad tracks.
"I think the county is willing to look at all these options," Stassen said.
Because the county and the railroad were not able to reach an agreement last week the county will have to forfeit a $1 million federal transportation enhancement grant that would have helped pay for the project. Stassen expects the county to apply for more grants to pay for the project once the alignment issue is settled.
With the delay, construction on the trail will not start until at least next year, and it might take longer than that.
Once it's done, the 27-mile trail will connect St. Paul's Harriet Island Park to Hastings.
Stassen believes the current setback will not keep that from happening.
"Taking into consideration all of the alignment and safety issues, taking some time now to consider this in a little greater detail makes sense," he said. "It's going to be a very nice trail once it's fully completed."