Ramsey gets $490,000 from feds for pedestrian skyway over Highway 10

Ramsey got a financial boost May 27 in its aspirations to build a pedestrian skyway over Highway 10 to connect residents to a Mississippi River park and trail.

The Ramsey City Council on a 5-1 vote May 27, with Councilmember Jill Johns absent, approved an engineering and design consultant contract for a proposed skyway over Highway 10 that would enable people to more easily get to the Mississippi West Regional Park and a trail along the river.
The Ramsey City Council on a 5-1 vote May 27, with Councilmember Jill Johns absent, approved an engineering and design consultant contract for a proposed skyway over Highway 10 that would enable people to more easily get to the Mississippi West Regional Park and a trail along the river. Courtesy of city of Ramsey

Two uniformed U.S. National Park service representatives sitting in the audience had something large with them, but it was covered up and thus difficult to tell what it was.. When it turned out to be a check for $490,000, several members of the Ramsey City Council was surprised..

“You’re welcome back at any time,” said Mayor Sarah Strommen, who called the donation, “a fabulous surprise.”

Through meetings on Highway 10 project planning, Strommen has consistently seen graphics on how important Highway 10 is in connecting to the rest of the state of Minnesota. But only a sliver of the community is south of Highway 10, which is difficult for pedestrians to cross, so Strommen said for a long time Ramsey has “had its back to the city.”

“We’ve made an effort over the last few years to turn back toward the river and use that as an asset to our community,” said Strommen, noting the boat launch that opened in the spring of 2012at Mississippi West Park as an example.

Not everyone on the council is enthused about the skyway project and that the federal government is chipping in almost half-a-million dollars to help make it happen. Councilmember Jason Tossey voted against the city hiring SRF Consulting and Kimley-Horn to complete the geotechnical study and design the skyway.

Tossey noted that Anoka County and the cities of Anoka and Ramsey are discussing ways to upgrade the Highway 10 corridor and the federal government has not given “one red cent” to improve a highway “that people use to get to work and to bring goods and services to and from the city” even though it would just be borrowed money anyway because the federal government debt is in the trillions.

“We should not be spending money we don’t have for one thing and if we are going to spend money it should be on things that improves the infrastructure of our city and our nation. This does not do that,” Tossey said. His comments drew a light applause from several residents at the council meeting.

Mark Riverblood, parks and assistant public works superintendent, has promoted this pedestrian skyway as a way to connect Ramsey residents to The COR and other city parks through existing trails. Riverblood highlighted the trail loop on a PowerPoint presentation as the “Circle of Ramsey” as a play on The COR development area acronym that stands for “Center of Ramsey.”

The skyway’s northern access point would be next to the Northstar Commuter Rail station in The COR, so people on the south side of the highway could more easily bike or walk to the train station without having to cross Highway 10 at ground level, Riverblood said.

“Until we restructure our federal program of dispersing money through grants, I’m going to do my level best to bring money home that we have had leave our community,” Riverblood said, adding that the federal grants he continues to pursue for this project can only be used for access to federal parks and not for highway projects.

Designing the skyway

This project may never happen. All the council did May 27 was approve the geotechical evaluation of the soils and design to determine not only aesthetic appearance, but practical questions such as whether the bridge should be covered and if any heating system is needed to make the skyway more accessible during the winter.

The city’s 2014-2017 Capital Improvement Plan shows an image of a covered skyway and a cost projection of $2.6 million.

An eight-person panel that included representatives from places such as the city of Ramsey, Anoka County, the National Parks Service, Metropolitan Transit and the Minnesota Department of Transportation interviewed two prospective engineering and design teams and chose SRF Consulting and Kimley-Horn. This is the same team that designed Ramsey’s Northstar Rail station and the skyway that connects it with the municipal parking ramp.

All of the engineering and design work will be covered by a $100,000 Metropolitan Council Transit Orientated Development grant the city received in 2012. About one-third of this grant will be dedicated to an alternatives analysis to determine if the proposed skyway is the most effect solution for getting pedestrians across Highway 10, Riverblood has said.

Tossey believes walkers and bikers can go another “half-a-mile” to the Armstrong Boulevard interchange to cross Highway 10. This project could break ground this year and be done around the time the skyway starts being constructed in 2016.

Susan Overson, landscape architect and park planner for the National Park Services’ Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, said the Ramsey project is just one of many projects it has in mind to get people to the Mississippi River without having to drive.

Beyond funding for the skyway, John Anfinson, chief resource manager for this Mississippi River division of the National Park Service, presented a $10,000 check for Ramsey to invest in an electric vehicle charging station at the parking ramp.

“With this check for $490,000 for the Mississippi skyway, you will become part of a major access point to the river, which will help generate visitors and tourism up here as in traditional national parks, but it also gets people to the river safely,” Overson said.

Eric Hagen is at
[email protected]

  • R.Hill

    It’s easy to build when you are using someone else’s (taxpayers)money.