BY MIKE BROOKS, NE COMMUNITIES BIKE WALK
Across 24 states a carefully woven network of 11,000 miles of separated trails and existing roads connects urban, suburban and rural communities. This dovetailing of infrastructure is broken down into numbered routes that are the beginning of a national highway system for bicyclists — the United States Bicycle Routes (USBRs).
A recent map from the Minnesota Department of Transportation shows White Bear Lake on the proposed USBR 41 connecting St. Paul with Grand Portage on the Canadian border. White Bear Lake would be part of USBR 41’s alignment using the Vento / Hardwood Creek / Sunrise Prairie trails (see related article in the StarTribune).
On Thursday, June 9, MnDOT held a public open house in White Bear Lake to introduce, discuss and collect ideas and thoughts about USBR 41.
The USBR system is part of the Adventure Cycling Association’s vision to identify and number over 50,000 miles of routes to create “the largest official cycling route network in the world.”
The USBR 41 Open House happened as engineering consultants hired by Ramsey County plotted and presented an alternative alignment of the Vento Trail from Buerkle Road to Minnesota 96 / Lake. The county has acknowledged it is forwarding to MnDOT a graphic representation of the proposed route from Minnesota 96 to Ramsey County J at the Washington County / Ramsey County line, completing the decades old Bruce Vento Regional trail project and preparing it for inclusion into the USBR 41 project.
Separately, Hugo officials have created a plan to pick up the trail from Ramsey County at Ramsey County J and connect it to the Hardwood Creek Trail at its southernmost point on 140th Street. The Hardwood Creek and Sunrise Prairie trails are Rails-to-Trails conversions providing a separated biking and walking facility connecting Hugo and North Branch.
What can you do?
1. Write to Scott Yonke (firstname.lastname@example.org) at Ramsey County Parks and Recreation. Thank him for his work on the Vento extension to Minnesota 96 / Lake and urge him to complete the trail to the county line, where it can connect with Washington County’s planned connection to the Hardwood Creek Trail. Tell him we absolutely need a bridge to get over Minnesota 96 and MnDOT needs to find a safer solution to crossing U.S. 61 at Lake. Copy commissioners Victoria Reinhardt (email@example.com) and Blake Huffman (firstname.lastname@example.org).
2. Write to Liz Walton at MnDOT and ask MnDOT to get behind completion of the Vento Trail to simplify connections to the selected USBR 41 alignment north of White Bear Lake using the Hardwood Creek and Sunrise Prairie trails. Tell her the Vento is needed as an alternative to the elimination of bike facilities on U.S. 61 through White Bear Lake. Ask why MnDOT is not using parts of U.S. 61 from Buerkle Road to White Bear Avenue in its routing of USBR 41 even though the road is identified on the State Bike Map as a designated bike route. Her email is email@example.com.