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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 in progress. Construction of the east half began on August 17 and finished up in November. Construction on the second half started in May 2021 and should be done by September 4.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for Thursday, October 7 at 10:30 a.m. and we’re organizing a community bike ride on September 26 at 4 p.m.
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 follow Livingston south to Wentworth, then go west and cross Wentworth to connect with new trails running through Marthaler Park and Garlough Park toward Dodge Nature Center. What about a safe crossing at Wentworth? The county is studying that right now to determine the best solution.
- 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 Hy-Vee 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.
- What’s next for the Greenway? Here’s a rundown of future projects.
There was an informational public meeting about the tunnel on Nov. 7, 2019 at the Wentworth Library.
- For more information, I’ve written extensively about the Greenway project on my personal blog.
- You can also follow WSP Greenway Project on Facebook for continuing updates.
- Here’s the construction newsletter from Dakota County with more specifics.
A Recent Look
Here’s a look at the progress so far:
Construction on the east half of the underpass was completed in 2020 and then blocked off for the winter. The trail around the library was mostly completed but not paved:
Here’s a look at the trail alignment on the east side of Robert, behind Wentworth Library from late August 2020: