Great Northern Greenway moves forward

 rendering credit Minneapolis Parks Foundation

The Great Northern Greenway will offer a new opportunity for cyclists and those on foot to cross the north half of Minneapolis in designated space.

The partially completed greenway will stretch from Wirth Park on the city’s western border to the Northwest Diagonal Trail that abuts New Brighton Boulevard.

Advocacy for the project is provided by a task force of neighborhood and other volunteers under the sponsorship of the nonprofit Mississippi Riverfront Partnership.

The project got a major boost with the construction of a sidepath beside the reconstructed 26th Avenue N. This links such area institutions as the Plymouth-Penn intersection, Nellie Stone Johnson school and Farview Park. The 26th Avenue work brings this bike-pedestrian amenity almost to the riverfront, creating another river access point for North Siders. The Park Board and its allied foundation are working to create an overlook at the river and to secure an easement across private industrial land to connect to West River Parkway.

Meanwhile, work is slowly proceeding to fill gaps in the Northeast half of the greenway, generally following 18th Avenue NE, connecting other nearby institutions such as Edison High School and Northeast Park.  The reconstruction of a portion of 18th this year, and a planned reconstruction of another segment farther east in 2020 will add new space for non-motorized travel. The task force currently is giving input to the city about how to create a safer crossing to the Diagonal Trail at the Stinson-New Brighton Boulevard junction. Several key additional segments remain to be addressed.

One unresolved issue is how to cross the Mississippi River. The ideal solution would be to negotiate space for foot and pedal travelers on the BNSF bridge not far upstream from the busy Broadway bridge. One possibility would be to allow them to use the unused width of the BNSF bridge not occupied by rails. Another would be to cantilever a recreational bridge off of the side of the railroad bridge. Both would require agreement by the railroad but there are precedents elsewhere in the nation where recreational users share a bridge carrying an active freight line. Resolving this issue is likely to require buy-in and advocacy by several government jurisdictions.

The city’s bike network has developed with radial spokes leading to downtown but east-west links such as Victory Memorial Drive, the Midtown Greenway and the RiverLake Greenway are needed to complete the system. That’s why the Great Northern Greenway is gaining steam. For more information, look for the greenway at

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