Funds are in place to repair storm damage along a three-mile length of the Minnesota River Bluffs Regional Trail that has been closed for more than five years.
Construction is planned for 2020, and the Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority hopes to have the trail open late 2020 or 2021.
The Metropolitan Council approved a grant of $1.7 million in regional funding this June for Carver County to purchase about 90 acres of land from the Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority. A storm in July of 2014 had caused an 80-foot slope failure, among other damage.
“The county is pleased we’re moving forward with this acquisition,” said Carver County Parks Director Marty Walsh, “and that we could find a way to utilize regional funding sources to help us in this repair.”
The price tag — which was willingly set lower than the appraised value of $5.8 million — covers the cost of repairs for the rail authority. The rail authority is donating the remaining $4.1 million in land value to the county.
The trail is popular for bicyclists to get from the Twin Cities metro to Carver County and beyond. After the 2014 storm, Three Rivers Park District blocked the trail with chain link fencing, and instead directed bicyclists and pedestrians along a six-mile detour via Pioneer Trail. Bicyclists have said the road shoulder along Pioneer Trail had been risky to ride.
The detour is not well-suited to bicycle travel, Walsh said. He added the closed portion of the trail is important to the overall trail system.
“It’s key to connecting areas from Chaska going east,” he said, “And then as you come to the west, there are all those folks coming from the other direction to access Chaska and Carver, so it is a very valuable connection.”
A purchase agreement and memorandum of understanding between the county and rail authority dictate the rules and responsibilities of slope repair and property ownership. The repairs will be coordinated with construction on Highway 101. Carver County will be taking over the lease for the Three Rivers portion of the trail.
After the 2014 storm, the rail authority had received funding for trail repair from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). There had been two projects at hand. The first involved slope repair at the edges of the trail corridor at the bottom of the slope for $58,000.
The delay for repairs came up in the larger, second project to repair the 80-foot slope failure. FEMA denied giving the entirety of the $1.8 million the rail authority’s request, saying several areas of damage could not be determined to be a result of the storm.