Coon Rapids gets two state trails grants

by Peter Bodley
Managing Editor

The city of Coon Rapids has been awarded Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) grants for two trail projects.

• The DNR has allocated $60,000 for a pedestrian tunnel project under Main Street east of Avocet Street.

• A trail project on the east side of Main Street from Coon Creek Boulevard to 1,400 feet east, including a pedestrian bridge over Coon Creek east of Coon Creek Boulevard, will get $72,000 from the DNR.

One project grant request from the city that was not funded was a trail on south side of 85th Avenue from East River Road to the Burlington-Northern Santa Fe Railroad tracks to connect to the Mississippi River Regional Trail.

According to Courtland Nelson, DNR parks and trail division, there were some 51 applications for grants through the 2011 local trails connection program.

Those applications totaled over $4 million and the DNR had only $971,000 to distribute, Nelson said.

Last year the Coon Rapids City Council approved construction of the tunnel under Main Street during the Anoka County project that is reconstructing Main Street from Crane Street in Coon Rapids to Ulysses Street in Blaine.

Currently, Main Street is closed from Avocet to Foley Boulevard until August for construction of an overpass at the Burlington-Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railroad tracks.

According to Public Services Director Steve Gatlin, the tunnel will be located some 85 to 115 feet west of the west wall of the overpass.

The tunnel would be built through the bridge approach grade where retaining walls are proposed on each side of the roadway, Gatlin said.

The construction cost to the city is $293,000, he said.

With the DNA grant, the city will be left to pick up the balance of the cost, which will come from the city’s state aid street account, which derives its revenues from an annual state gas tax allocation through the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).

The tunnel will be built this year, according to Gatlin.

According to Gatlin, the tunnel is ultimately designed to link the city’s trail system.

“Right now, there are no trails for the tunnel to link, but Anoka County is seeking federal dollars to provide a north-south trail in the area,” Gatlin said.

However, the earliest a trail is likely to become a reality in the area is three to five years, he said.

As part of the Main Street reconstruction project, there will be a pedestrian-bike trail constructed on the south side of Main Street from Crane to Ulysses.

Pedestrian-bike tunnels have previously been constructed to link trails in northern part of the city – one on Hanson Boulevard, north of Main Street, and the other under the railroad tracks to link the trail in the residential area north of Main Street and east of Hanson with Bunker Hills Regional Park.

Residents in the area north of Main Street are also in favor of the Main Street tunnel because children in that area have to walk to and from Sand Creek Elementary School, which lies south of Main Street on Olive Street.

According to Dave Full, city project manager, the other grant request funded by the DNA for Main Street would connect the existing sidewalk at Coon Creek Boulevard to the trail that has been constructed by the county to the east.

With the pedestrian bridge over Coon Creek, the trail would provide for a complete sidewalk/trail route through Coon Rapids from Anoka to Blaine once the county work on Main Street is completed in 2012, Full said.

Both the county’s parks and highway departments support the project, he said.

The project has an estimate price tag of $150,000.

According to Gatlin, the project will be constructed this year with the balance of the needed funding coming from the city’s 2012 budget in which $100,000 was set aside for miscellaneous trail projects.

The unfunded DNR-grant request was for a trail on the south side of 85th Avenue, which would have connected the recently completed trail along Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley to East River Road, according to Full.

“In the future the city could complete the trail through Kennedy Park and connect the trail system to the Mississippi Regional Trail to the west,” Full said.

Full estimated the cost for this project to be $280,000.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]