Bike route from Elk River to Hastings has support

by Peter Bodley

ECM Publishers

The Coon Rapids City Council has thrown its support behind efforts to have the Mississippi River Trail (MRT), which passes through the city, designated as a United States bike route.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is preparing an application for the designation to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and had asked for the city’s concurrence.

“The intent is to ‘create’ a nationally significant recreational travel opportunity right here in Minnesota,” said Public Works Director Tim Himmer, who recommended council approval of the resolution of support.

The MnDOT application would seek the U.S. bike route designation for the metro section of the MRT between Elk River and Hastings, according to Himmer.

This is the third and final segment of the MRT for nomination as a U.S. bike route, Himmer wrote in a memo to the council.

The first MRT segment in southeast Minnesota was designated in May 2012, while the second segment from the Headwaters in Lake Itasca to Elk River was submitted to AASHTO for its consideration in October last year.

All portions of the route within Coon Rapids are in place and have been signed accordingly, according to Himmer.

“No further construction is required for this route through the city,” Himmer told the council.

In seeking support from communities for the designation, MnDOT has found grass roots support for taking something that already exists (low use roads, roads with shoulders and off-road trails) and string together a bicycle route with appeal to local, regional, national and even international users, he wrote in his memo.

“The USBR designation is a great opportunity to promote bicycle use in and through the area, and celebrate the 2012 Minnesota Legislature naming of the MRT as Minnesota’s very first authorized bikeway,” Himmer wrote.

According to Himmer, the designated U.S. bike routes are a national network of bicycle routes, which are nominated for numbered designation by state departments of transportation and cataloged by AASHTO through its Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbering, the same committee that assigns numbers to U.S. and interstate highways.