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Mississippi River Regional Trail hits a snag

Dakota County could lose a $1 million dollar Federal grant for the Rosemount section of the Mississippi River Regional Trail if officials can't negotiate track crossings with Union Pacific in the coming days.

Dakota County Parks Department manager Bruce Blair said that if the county and Union Pacific management can't come to an agreement by June 20 the county would like lose the Federal Transportation Grant.

"It's coming down to the wire," Blair told the Rosemount City Council on Tuesday night.

Union Pacific Railroad management has expressed concerns about how the trail will cross the tracks and has not signed off on an easement for construction of the project.

Plans have the trail crossing the tracks twice off of Pine Bend Trail. While the tracks have low volume traffic, Blair said the company and the county have not been able to negotiate a way to cross the tracks that quells their concerns.

Blair said there is no alignment possible to avoid crossing the tracks possible and that it's crucial for the project to proceed.

Dakota County has been working with Union Pacific for nearly three years to try and come to an agreement on the crossings.

Council member Mark DeBettignies asked what happens if the county can't come to an agreement. Blair said it's possible the county would lose a Federal grant it obtained for the project and the county would be responsible for the money to build the trail. He added that the county may have to take legal action to get the crossings.

"No one wants to lose a million dollar grant," said Blair.

The estimated cost to build the paved trail through Rosemount is $3 million. Blair said the county will use several funding sources for the project including the $1 million federal transportation grant and a $200,000 Minnesota State Legacy grant.

Blair told the council that the county has put pressure on Union Pacific and that the company will send senior management in the coming days to negotiate.

"That's a good sign," said Blair.

Dakota County will construct nearly four-miles of trail through Rosemount. The trail will run parallel to Minnesota Highway 55 on Flint Hills Resources property, past the Pine Bend Cemetery and run east to the Spring Lake Park Reserve archery range parking lot.

When completed sometime in 2015, the Mississippi River Regional Trail will extend 27 miles from St. Paul's Harriet Island Park to Hastings.

Blair said they can see the light of the end of tunnel on the bigger project but he was admitted the current issues with the railroad have put a damper on progress.

"The railroad has been the challenge to the project," said Blair.

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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