By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
As bids are about to be opened for phase one of the St. Louis River Trail project, Carlton County is working on a proposal to seek inclusion in the 2010 Minnesota State Bonding Bill to help fund phase two of the project.
According to trail project chair Mark Roberts, the county plans to apply for $750,000 in the upcoming bonding bill, which he said should help supply the matching funds required to access federal enhancement money already on track for the project.
The pathway to the long-anticipated trail project has not been smooth, however, after right-of-way acquisition for phase one proved to be more costly than anticipated. Right-of-way acquisition initially wasn’t considered to be a budget item at all because the land adjoining phase one of the proposed trail was thought to be primarily county land. There were three parcels that needed to be acquired from the Burlington Northern Railroad as well as two private-property owners.
In order to expedite phase one of the process and avoid possible court costs, the county board recently authorized up to $35,000 to go toward acquisition expenses. Roberts said impacted property owners have reached a mutually amicable settlement with the county and the final agreements are currently being drawn up.
“Thanks to the cooperation between the property owners and the county in addressing the issues at hand,” Roberts said, “we were able to get the matter settled as swiftly as we did.”
Roberts said the final cost of the right-of-way acquisition for phase one totaled some $215,000 for the required 35 acres, none of which was included in the original budget for the project. He added that the county hopes to leverage other sources of funding to recoup some or all of those expenses.
According to County Engineer Wayne Olson, bids on phase one of the trail project will be opened on June 29. The low bidder must indicate they will be subcontracting a portion of the work to Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) or a good-faith effort to do so (a requirement for federal funding). After that, the bidder must be certified by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the bid will then be awarded at the county board meeting on July 14. The contract will be sent out for all necessary signatures, and construction bonds must be obtained by the contractor. This can take two to four weeks, so work on the project is expected to start in early August. Roberts said phase one of the project should be completed by mid-October.
The paved trail will consist of a bituminous surface 10 feet in width with two-foot shoulders that will allow access for all nonmotorized travel including bicycle riders, inline skaters and hikers.
The St. Louis River Trail project’s phase-one segment is a three-mile stretch from the Munger trailhead in Carlton winding through nearly one mile of commercial and residential urban terrain. The remaining 2.1 miles follow the abandoned Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad grade that lies west of and parallel to Highway 45. This portion of the trail will end at the Park and Ride lot in Scanlon.
Phase two of the trail will go under the Interstate 35 Bridge and wind to the north and east along the St. Louis River for four miles, culminating at the Minnesota Power hydroelectric dam just beyond Sappi.
The final proposed phase of the the trail would continue for one mile along the St. Louis River Dunlap Island, creating a trail totaling 8.5 miles in length and connecting the existing Willard Munger Trail to the river front trail in Cloquet.
Trail planning for the St. Louis River Trail project first began in October 2004, and funding has since been secured from a variety of sources, including the Lake Superior Coastal Program, federal/state ISTEA money and one-time donations of $7,500 each from the cities of Cloquet, Carlton, Scanlon, as well as Carlton County.
Phase one of the project has been financed, in part, through bonding money secured in 2006.