MnDOT receives innovation award for Mississippi River Trail planning | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

MnDOT receives innovation award for Mississippi River Trail planning

Posted: October 11, 2012 - 7:43pm

MnDOT receives innovation award for Mississippi River Trail planning

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has received an innovation in planning award from the Minnesota chapter of the American Planning Association for its Mississippi River Trail (MRT) bicycling route plan.

The route closely follows the Mississippi River from the headwaters at Itasca State Park to the Iowa border.

“The Mississippi River Trail connects highways and off-road trails that already exist and repurposes them to provide a different opportunity for bicyclists,” said Tim Mitchell, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. “This effort required collaborative contributions from private businesses, elected officials, bicyclists and state/local road and trail authorities.”

Minnesota is the first state to develop such a plan for bicycling along the Mississippi River.

The planning effort involved numerous meetings with dozens of stakeholder groups along the route. Planners joined bicyclists and community leaders for evaluation bicycle rides along the proposed segments of the bikeway to further explore alignment alternatives and confirm the route’s viability. Planners also hosted discussions to improve the bicycle friendliness of the MRT’s host communities.

An MRT marketing toolkit and professional assistance to develop a local marketing plan also are available for communities along the route to help local governments and businesses successfully promote the bikeway and visit their area.

Signs for the river trail are currently sporadic. A comprehensive sign plan also is part of the larger MRT plan and is in the final stages. Additional signs will go up along the trail during the next three years to further increase visibility and assist riders with navigation.

The MRT is Minnesota’s first designated state bikeway. Minnesota is the first of 10 Mississippi River states to seek legislation to formalize their portion of the national route within its boundary.

In May 2012, a portion of the MRT became the state’s first contribution to the United States Bicycle Route system — designated as USBR 45. The MRT extends 3,000 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.

For more information about the Mississippi River Trail in Minnesota, including printable and electronic maps, visit www.mndot.gov/bike/mrt.