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Federal funding fuels local trails
Jun 24, 2011 | 25802 views | 1 1 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bobbiejo Schuneman, 5, and Tayshia Thigpen, 10, walk along Chaska's levee  trail on June 20.
Bobbiejo Schuneman, 5, and Tayshia Thigpen, 10, walk along Chaska's levee trail on June 20.

By Mollee Francisco 

Not long after a remote bridge near Carver collapsed sending a Union Pacific train and its sugary contents into the Minnesota River, the notion of converting the remaining rail line to a trail began to circulate. Four years later, that notion is closer than ever to becoming a reality.

Union Pacific has since abandoned the 5.6 miles of rail between the fallen trestle and Chaska’s United Sugars plant. Last month, the Carver County Board approved a $2.35 million purchase agreement for the line. And Monday night, the Chaska City Council approved a resolution of support for the county’s application for transportation enhancement grant dollars toward trail construction.

“It’s going to be fantastic because it will connect two historic towns [Chaska and Carver],” said Marty Walsh, parks director for Carver County.

Over the next few weeks, Carver County will be working with Union Pacific to execute the purchase agreement of the rail line, after which they’ll be able to set a closing date.

“We hope to close this summer,” said Walsh.

Meanwhile, the county is hoping to secure federal grant dollars to construct the 2.1-mile trail between Athletic Park in Chaska and downtown Carver, connecting to Carver’s levee system. The county is applying for an $800,000 grant, Walsh said. That figure includes dollars for a bridge over Spring Creek.

In September, the Metropolitan Council will begin also work on a new sanitary sewer interceptor along the abandoned rail line with construction expected to be finished by the end of 2012. When the sewer interceptor is in place, a 14-foot-wide gravel trail will top the line.

Walsh said the plan will be to convert from gravel to a paved trail in the future [tentatively scheduled for 2015]. Local entities are expected to contribute $162,000 to the project. When completed, the Carver/Chaska trail will become part of the Minnesota River Bluffs Regional Trail.

Connecting communities

On the Chaska/Chanhassen border, another segment connection is planned for the Minnesota River Bluffs Regional Trail. A half-mile piece running east from Engler Boulevard north of County Road 61 will provide a long-awaited connection between the regional trail and Chaska’s trail system, allowing walkers and bikers safe passage between the two.

Walsh said the project has already been federally approved, with funding expected in 2013. Chaska City Administrator Matt Podhradsky noted that the county is hoping to do some advance funding of the project in order to begin engineering work before the federal dollars become available. The county will then begin working on land acquisition for the trail.

In total, $545,000 has come from federal grants for both the Minnesota River Bluffs Regional Trail segment along County Road 61 and a connection in Victoria to the Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail system. The latter segment connects the existing trail from downtown Victoria westerly under Highway 5 to two city parks.

In the future, officials with the county and the cities of Chaska and Victoria also hope to create another connection from the Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail system along Rolling Acres Road and south across Highway 5 to Bavaria Road.

“We want to create a number of options to connect our local trail systems to the regional trail system,” said Walsh. “Connections bring communities together.”

Communities along the Dakota Rail Regional Trail have seen their connections improve as two new segments opened last month, including the opening of a $1.2 million, 7-mile trail extension from St. Bonifacius to Mayer in Carver County. A second segment includes two new bridges over Highway 7 and County Road 92 near St. Bonifacius.

A third segment, heading west from Mayer through New Germany to the Carver County – McLeod County line, is planned for next year.

Making those trail connections isn’t always easy though.

“It takes coordinated planning,” said Walsh. “You’re dealing with multiple agencies so it’s very much a cooperative achievement.”

Comments-icon Post a Comment
June 25, 2011
Why have the trail Bypass Chaska?

You are costing businesses money, people historic sights, and a more fun was through downtown.

What does Chaska think? This isn't about crossing 41, or the three bridges.

I hope Chaska finally sees the point of bringing it through downtown. A quicker, flood proof, more historic route.
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