Archive for June, 2009

Paving the Lost Four Miles

Posted by Doug Shidell, June 29th , 2009.

Trail enthusiasts referred to it as the “Lost Four Miles,” an unpaved four-mile section that, when completed, would connect the Central Lakes Trail and the Lake Wobegon Trail to create a single 120-mile trail, the longest in Minnesota. By the evening of Thursday, August 9, 2008 the paving crew had paved all but the last mile of the trail. The transition was sharp: To the east a thick black carpet of tar, still hot. To the west a short smear of oil over compacted gravel. The connecting thread, a quarter mile length of red twine used as a guide for the paving machine.

By late Friday morning the crew had completed half the remaining distance. Tar filled dump trucks lined the side of the road. The drivers, with time on their hands, gathered in the middle of the line to visit. Behind them an empty truck raced up the unpaved portion of the trail toward an exit while a loaded truck waited. When the path cleared the loaded truck backed down the trail to the paving machine.

The new truck backed into place, a puff of black smoke belched out of the paving machine and the whole operation inched forward. Black tar and sand poured from the truck to the hopper of the paving machine and came out the back in a smooth, straight ribbon. Moments later, and ten feet down the trail, the operation came to a stop. The truck was empty. As the truck sped away, the operator of the paving machine put his hands behind his head and leaned back in the seat. A crew member stared off into space at the back of the paving machine. Ten feet, then wait until the empty truck clears the trail and a full one backs the distance to the paving machine. It wasn’t one of the more interesting jobs for this crew.

The pace picked up as the distance shortened. Within two hours the paving crew had completed all but a couple of dozen yards of the trail. Trucks pulled off the trail almost as soon as they emptied their loads. The long line of trucks on the side of the road gave way to a couple of trucks carrying the last loads of the day. A bobcat swung into action, picking up paving debris and loading it into an empty truck.

The last truck raised its bed to dump a load into the hopper, then lowered it less than a minute later. The paving machine wouldn’t need his full load. A moment later the last few inches of the connector were covered with hot mix. The moment cyclists were waiting for, connecting that 120 mile ribbon of blacktop, had arrived.

It was not a momentous moment. The paving machine pulled off the trail and rumbled down the road to a grassy area. The partially emptied dump truck started down the road, presumably to return its leftover load of mix. A reserve truck, still full of mix, left the scene. The bobcat swung onto the trail and scraped up a mound of leftover blacktop. The load went into the debris truck. The bobcat swung back to the access road. With its bucket scraping the road and front wheels floating in the air, it scraped the pavement free of tar and sand.

The paving machine rumbled down the road toward a waiting trailer. Pickup trucks, ubiquitous vehicles at every construction site, left quickly. The bobcat finished its work and dropped its last load into the debris truck. A moment later the truck left, leaving only the bobcat, its driver and another man. The two men huddle over diagrams for a few minutes.

A pickup swung into the abandoned site. The extra man hopped into the bed of the truck and spread out to relax as the truck raced away. The bobcat churned down the road a moment later.

Forty-five minutes ago this was a bustling site of dump trucks, paving machine, pickups, a bobcat and crew. Now it is abandoned except, somewhere down the trail, a lone man on a compacting machine is slowly rolling up and down the trail compressing the mix.

With a little luck, the crews made it back to Willmar, their hometown, in time for Friday’s happy hour or an evening with their families. On Monday morning they were at a new site, paving a Wal-Mart parking lot. They would finish that job in a couple of days and move to another job. The trail project would fade into the long list of projects completed.

The celebrities showed up two weeks later. Garrison Keillor, mayors, trail advocates and folks who enjoy momentous events. Garrison drove in a ceremonial green spike. Speeches were made. Musicians and food entertained the crowds. Bicyclists and in-line skaters cheered.

None of them made it to the actual completion of the trail. I expected someone, perhaps a trail advocate, to show up with a keg of beer that the crew could tap into once they’d parked their trucks and clocked off the job. At the very least, I expected an accidental bicyclist to come upon the scene just as the crew was wrapping up. I expected him to stop and hang out, aware that this was an important moment in cross-state trail building.

But I’m projecting my own needs into this moment. What I really wanted was for a single trail user to connect with a single trail builder, to briefly share a moment in common. A moment when the trail builder could talk about his job and what it takes to put asphalt on the ground, and a trail user could say what it means to have these incredible facilities available and perhaps give an insight into why we enjoy them. It won’t happen this time. Bicyclists didn’t show up at the construction site and the paving crew didn’t show up at the trail celebration.

I wish I’d bought them that keg of beer.

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News, Misc

Minneapolis Diagonal Trail Revisited

Posted by Doug Shidell, June 29th , 2009.

Diagonal Trail

Diagonal Trail

Diagonal Trail North

Diagonal Trail North

I spent a couple of hours revisiting the Diagonal Trail at New Brighton Blvd and I-35W on Sunday. The visit generated a series of changes and updates to the Twin Cities Bike Map. The most obvious change is the addition of a second leg to the trail at New Brighton Blvd and Stinson Blvd. The Stinson Blvd segment runs south to Hennepin Av. From there 18th Av is signed as a bike route south to Elm St. SE. This makes a good north-south connector in an area that has been underserved by bike trails. Use caution on the Stinson Blvd bike trail, however. It runs next to the road and intersects driveways and streets in an unsafe way. The problems are inherent with any two way bike trail placed next to a street.

Minneapolis has designated Talmadge St as a bike route between 18th and 27th. It’s a pleasant residential street and connects student housing to the greater campus area. It’s a good local connector, but it is short and doesn’t serve the larger area covered by the Twin Cities Bike Map very well, so I haven’t symbolized it as a bike route. While researching it, however, I discovered a very good alternate to the Industrial Blvd/Hennepin Av/29th Av SE route. See the attached map for the alternate. I’ve also added Ridgeway Pkwy between Industrial Blvd and Stinson Blvd. This has always been a very pleasant road, with a substantial hill in the middle, but it didn’t connect well to the rest of the routes until the Diagonal Trail was built.

Just north, on the overview side of the map, I added part of Long Lake Rd and 33rd Av and eliminated most of W. Co Rd C. The new routes, although not as direct, are more bike friendly.

This area still needs some work. One intriguing possibility is to run the Stinson Blvd bike route north to Silver Lake, then connect with 44th/Cty Rd E. If anyone has insights into this option, please let me know.

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News

Aldine St. Bike Bridge

Posted by Doug Shidell, June 23rd , 2009.

Aldine St. Bike Bridge

Aldine St. Bike Bridge

This is a note I received today from Brady Clark of Smart-Trips.org, a group dedicated to helping folks get around via non-automotive methods.

Hi Doug-
We were producing a neighborhood amenities map for our Smart Trips Neighborhoods program, and noticed that the Twin Cities Bike Map is missing the Aldine bike/ped bridge. Here’s an aerial shot of it:

http://bit.ly/F5cKz
Brady Clark
Communications &
Outreach Specialist
651.224.8555 x23
brady@smart-trips.org

I’ve connected it via Pierce and Carroll to Fry south of I-94 and added Aldine going north to Minnehaha Ave north of I-94.

Thanks to Brady and the folks of Smart-trips.

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News

Map Updates

Posted by Doug Shidell, June 23rd , 2009.

Maps are dynamic. Bike routes change, new trails get built and old ones extended. Some trails get shut down, temporarily, because of nearby construction or because the trail itself needs an overhaul. Well post the updates here, then provide a permanent, one-top page for all of the posts within each of the metro areas covered. If you want to see what’s chqnged since your copy of a map was printed, click the links below. If you have update information that we should know about, please email us by using the contact form here.

Madison Map Updates

Milwaukee Map Updates

Twin Cities Map Updates

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News

Lake Country Trail Extended

Posted by Doug Shidell, June 23rd , 2009.

Lake Country Trail Extension

Lake Country Trail Extension

The Lake Country Trail, in the wetern suburbs of Milwaukee, has been extended. The extension runs from the intersection of County Rd P and I-94 in Oconomowoc. It follows the western edge of County Rd P north to Valley Rd, then turns west to County Rd Z. From county Rd Z, the trail extension goes NW then due north into Oconomowoc. Most of the trail is paved and rideable, but a small section near the interstate is still gravel. Phil VanValkenberg, of the Bicycle Doctor in Dousman, claims that the unfinished section will probably be completed when the nearby work on the highway is completed.

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News

Luce Line Trail Extended

Posted by Doug Shidell, June 16th , 2009. 2 responses

New Luce Line

New Luce Line alignment

The last link of the Luce Line Trail has been connected to Theodore Wirth Parkway. As of late June, a short stretch of the trail had been paved. the trail still needed striping and landscaping around the edges, but the trail appears to be rideable.

The Bassett Creek Trail, leading from the SE corner of Theodore Wirth to the Cedar Lake Trail, has been renamed the Luce Line Trail. It is now possible to ride from Downtown Minneapolis to Watertown on two trails, the Cedar Lake Trail and the Luce Line. I don’t have an exact distance, but it is close to 50 miles one way. The Luce Line Trail is paved to I-494, then turns to a new crushed limestone surface.

Because of the trail extension, I’ve removed the bike route designation on Duluth St. from Golden Valley Rd. to Douglas St. I’ve also removed Olympia St. and the stretch of Douglas connecting Duluth St to Olympia St. The Luce Line is a much more desireable route and will get riders to the same general area.

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News, Misc

New Riverwest Trail in Milwaukee

Posted by Doug Shidell, June 16th , 2009.

The new Riverwest Trail between Burleigh St and Keefe Ave in Milwaukee is open for bicyclists. The trail, on the old Beer Line, runs only half a dozen blocks, but it has the potential to be extended much further. Bruce Thompson, the Milwaukee bike route researcher for the Milwaukee and SE Wisconsin Bike Map has re-routed the connecting bike routes to accomodate the new trail. The new route stays on Richards St. N between Capitol Dr and Keefe Ave. E.

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News