The Bruce Vento Regional Trail has been collecting dust at Buerkle Road since the end of the 1990’s. It was part of a larger and very progressive vision for biking and walking in the northeast portion of the Metro called the Lake Links Trail.
From St. Paul up to Buerkle it primarily occupies an abandoned railroad corridor except for a short stint on Phalen Parkway. But cross Buerkle and the rails are still there to store train cars and further down live tracks feather in carrying infrequent loads over the county line into the City of Hugo. For close to two decades Ramsey County waited to see if the railroad would abandon the remaining tracks or would allow a Rail with Trail. Finally, with demand rising for the trail to be completed, the County hired a civil engineering company a few years ago to create an alignment that did not require running the trail down the heart of the railroad right of way. I’ve had .pdf’s of the trail plan since March, but only recently saw the entire plan with callouts of details at Open House events. Even this alternative alignment uses the outer most edge of the railroad ROW for a good portion of the route and required negotiation and consensus from Burlington Northern Santa Fe ( BNSF). The final price tag for what has been laid out in detailed engineering drawings and elevations is not known. The project is to be costed out and appropriate grants…Federal or otherwise…..sought and applied for.
As grateful as I am for the work that has gone into preparing to get the trail into White Bear Lake, I’ve continued to advocate for a similar engineering analysis of the final few miles of county controlled roads to bring the trail to its envisioned completion at the line between Ramsey and Washington County. The reason is a few-fold.
First, the current trail extension is scheduled to dead-end at the intersection of a County Highway (#96) and a State Highway ( #61). The pent-up demand for this trail is great and its higher volumes of riders and walkers will come to an intersection with multiple turn lanes, multiple though lanes and 45+ MPH traffic and inadequate and unsafe ways to cross in any direction. It’s a situation ripe for someone to get frustrated and make a bad decision.
Second, there is no scheduled Phase Two and if we do not plan for completing the trail now we are merely resigning ourselves to making #96 the New Buerkle. Already Washington County and the city of Hugo have laid out a plan to pick up the trail at the county line and bring it to the established Hardwood Creek Trail and Sunrise Prairie Trail which run for miles up to North Branch, Minnesota.
Next post I will write about an opportunity for this same multiple trail alignment to get someone on their bike or wishing to go for a very long walk from St. Paul to the Canadian border.