The proposed Nine Mile Creek Trail extension through Edina has stirred up a lot of controversy, including NIMBYism disguised as faux environmental concern. This is normal in Edina, which has an excellent Bicycle Task Force working hard despite many residents who just don’t get it.
The proposed trail would link Edina to the main regional network of trails, including several commuter trails and a variety of recreational trails. Three Rivers Park District has come out in favor of the proposed extension, opting for the trail route along the creek rather than rerouting to nearby surface streets. This essentially provides the go-ahead for the extension, save one kinda mission-critical issue: Funding.
The seven-mile trail is expected to cost $20 million. Three Rivers hopes to receive $11 million in federal grants to fund construction, from federal awards expected to be announced in spring 2012. Additional funding will be sought from the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District and the Hennepin County Bicycle Capital Improvement Program. Once funding is secured, construction would begin in 2015.
Worth noting in this project is the overall cost — about $2.85 million per mile of trail. To be fair, this includes $5 million for trail bridges over the Crosstown (MN 62) and MN 100, and may include funding for stabilization of the creek banks in order to avoid yearly path washouts (although that’s quite unclear in the documents and coverage I’ve read). Even dropping the cost of the two bridges and leaving their mileage in the total, you’re still looking at more than $2 million/mile of trail — and it’s perhaps unfair to drop the bridge costs for the trail, as without passage over these two highways, the system will fail to achieve stated linkage goals.
Still, given that former Congressman James Oberstar cites averages of $128,000/mile to build 12-foot bicycle paths, it’s clear that his number must be some sort of average. Either some accounting must take place to remove items like the environmental work on the creek banks, or some paths must cost next to nothing to balance out this kind of average.
And, of course, it’s worth noting for the noble Edina residents who have opposed this project: That $11 million from the feds is by no means a sure thing with the current Congress and the next election not coming until fall 2012. They may have many years without having to worry about a trail being built on public right-of-way near their homes.