The city of Ramsey is considering a pedestrian skyway that would cross Highway 10 near the Northstar commuter rail station in The COR development on the north side and the Mississippi West Regional Park and trail on the south side.
The city and county are lobbying for additional state funding for this project.
Mark Riverblood, city parks and assistant public works superintendent, said this would help the city from a transportation, economic and recreation standpoint.
But Councilmember Jason Tossey said people could go a half-mile down the road to cross Highway 10 at the Armstrong Boulevard overpass.
“Creating and building something that’s pedestrian-only over a highway, a stand-alone skyway, doesn’t make fiscal sense,” Tossey said. “Even if it’s federal money, somebody has to stop and say this isn’t money well spent. Not when you can put those bike paths on the overpass.”
The Ramsey City Council March 11 on a 6-1 vote authorized city staff to complete a requests for proposals document that would give prospective engineering consultants the scope of the work the city has in mind. These firms could subsequently bid on the design work that would further spell out how much this project could cost.
About one-third of a $100,000 Metropolitan Council Transit Orientated Development grant the city received in 2012 will be dedicated to an alternatives analysis to determine if the proposed skyway is the most effective solution for getting pedestrians across Highway 10, according to Riverblood.
The remainder of the grant is for other portions of the design and planning process, including geotechnical soil analysis, construction estimates, traffic management on Highway 10 during construction and coordinating with all state agencies to refine the final alignment and right of way needs.
Whether the skyway is enclosed or an open bridge and its width are some of the details that would be worked out in this process with the engineer consultant, Riverblood explained in response to Councilmember Chris Riley questioning why the artist rendering showed an enclosed skyway.
“I appreciate the vision and I think it is worth going through this next piece of the exercise,” Mayor Sarah Strommen said.
Anoka County’s Mississippi West Regional Park is largely undeveloped other than a boat launch and observation and fishing deck. However, the county’s long-range plans include picnic shelters, an open play area, an interpretative center and trails.
An extension of the Mississippi River trail from Anoka into Ramsey is already scheduled for this year, Riverblood said.
The Ramsey council is scheduled to vote March 24 on authorizing construction of a further extension of this trail to the Elk River border and through the county’s regional park. The city received a $1.12 million federal grant for this portion of the trail that would be constructed when the Armstrong Boulevard interchange is built, Riverblood said.
Riverblood added that in April he would be asking the city council to update its long-range plan so that the Central Anoka County Regional Trail along Bunker Lake Boulevard would be extended to The COR, instead of ending at Ramsey Boulevard.
Councilmember John LeTourneau said it makes sense to only have the trail on the Armstrong Boulevard overpass, but the pedestrian skyway intrigues him because of the connectivity opportunities for residents to parks, trails and businesses.
LeTourneau and Strommen also liked that the skyway would be part of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and that a sign next to the skyway would be visible to Highway 10 commuters.
“I think that really plays well to the value of living in this community,” LeTourneau said.
Tossey said a lot of what people see in The COR was subsidized by tax dollars and this would add to those examples. He has no doubt that development will happen and thinks the Armstrong overpass will help. However, he said Ramsey in recent history has been known as the city that had the adult bookstore and the parking ramp “in the middle of a field” meaning there was not much development around it.
“I’m afraid this will end up being that parking ramp in the middle of a field,” Tossey said.
LeTourneau responded, “I just want to make it fully clear that there’s not a parking lot in the middle of a field any longer, and I think we’ve done some great work as a community to really bring some amazing amenities forward, and there’s a lot of continued growth ahead.”
The city’s 2014-2018 Capital Improvement Plan anticipates the skyway could cost $2.6 million to construct. Riverblood said the National Park Service regional office in Omaha, Neb., has recommended the city receive $480,000, but it must still be approved at the federal office in Washington, D.C.
Other funding could come from the Metropolitan Council and other Alternative Transportation grants appropriated by Congress. The completion of project planning and making it “shovel ready” would help prepare this project to receive other grants such as with the boat landing that opened two years ago, according to Riverblood.
The boat landing was constructed thanks to a $400,000 Minnesota Clean Water, Land and Legacy Fund grant. The city contributed $20,000, according to John VonDeLinde, Anoka County parks and recreation director.
“Essentially what we’re doing tonight … is jump-starting this project just like we did for the boat landing and moving this project to the head of the line,” Riverblood said.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]