Trail underpass at Highway 62 in Mendota Heights

When will the River-to-River Greenway Trail & Tunnel open?

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Currently the River-to-River Greenway Trail exists through West St. Paul, though in places it’s reduced to a sidewalk.

One key hurdle is crossing Robert Street, but construction for a tunnel under Robert Street is happening in 2020. Dakota County approved a bid for the project on July 14, with a construction timeline of July 2020 to November 2021. Construction began on August 17.

River-to-River Greenway Trail and Tunnel map in West St. Paul
Proposed alignment of the trail underpass.

Tell Me More:

  • Construction impact: Preliminary plans call for reducing lanes on Robert Street between Thompson and Wentworth, but maintaining access. They’ll do the east half this fall and the west half in the spring. (So why didn’t we do this during the recent Robert Street reconstruction project? Mainly because of opposition to the Robert Street project in general and additional costs at the time—it just wasn’t feasible to add an underpass to the project then.)
  • Where will the tunnel be located? The tunnel will cross Robert Street at Crawford Drive on the east and the old Blockbuster site on the west. (Crawford Drive will actually be moved north to accommodate the tunnel.)
  • Where will the trail go?
    • To the east of Robert Street, the trail will then cross Crawford Drive and continue behind the library before meeting the sidewalk on Wentworth. There are plans for trails through the former golf course property, with alignment to be determined based on pending development and watershed restoration. The Greenway eventually connects to Thompson Park.
    • To the west of Robert Street, the trail will eventually connect to trails running through Marthaler Park toward Garlough and Dodge Nature Center. The exact alignment is being determined—it could either follow Livingstone south to trails along Wentworth or cut straight west to Humboldt and cross Wentworth into Marthaler.
  • Will it get used? Absolutely. A 2013 study estimated over 20,000 annual visits to the precursor of the River-to-River Greenway, which was an incomplete trail. Estimates for the completed Greenway were 123,000 in 2015, with usage increasing to 140,000 by 2030. These are estimates and the way they count them means it’s not actually 140,000 people on the trail in one year. But it is a lot of use, especially as the trail ties into the Twin Cities regional trail system. (Sources and details on those numbers are in this 2017 story.)
  • Will a tunnel attract crime? No. There are at least four nearby tunnels in West St. Paul, South St. Paul, and Mendota Heights, and none of those tunnels attract crime. Former Police Chief Bud Shaver in 2015: “I don’t suspect that it would be a spot where individuals would wait and lurk for victims of crimes. There’s no track record of that happening in tunnels in the area; that’s just a perception from TV.” And if it makes you feel better, the tunnel will have lights and cameras.
  • What does this cost? The plans for this project have changed over the years, especially as it’s been tied to the HyVee project. But the short version is that West St. Paul is not paying for the tunnel—there’s $3 million in funding from federal, state, and county sources to pay for the tunnel. And Dakota County is picking up any excess costs.
West St. Paul’s existing trail underpass at Charlton between Dodge Nature Center and Garlough.

There was an informational public meeting about the tunnel on Nov. 7, 2019 at the Wentworth Library.

More:

Here’s a look at the trail alignment on the east side of Robert, behind Wentworth Library:

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