Saintly Seven Project
The "Saintly Seven" project for the Lake Wobegon Trail will extend the Lake Wobegon Trail seven miles from St Joseph across the Sauk River into Waite Park and through St Cloud to the Mississippi River in downtown St Cloud.
The goal is to run the trail along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad corridor. This would be the most direct route, easiest and least expensive way to extend the trail. It will also create a safe east/west route across the St Cloud Metro.
This bicycle/pedestrian corridor will create a "greenway" similar to the Minneapolis Greenway that provides an east/west bicycle/pedestrian corridor for residents of the Minneapolis Metro area. The greenway not only provides a transportation route but also has created economic opportunities for business growth along the trail. It also created an opportunity to create a small town neighborhood feeling in the heart of the Minneapolis.
This project, while it seems like a "no-brainer," is a very complex process. It involves nearly 20 entities with jurisdiction and economic interests in the impacts of the project. There are federal, state, city, township governments along with the St Cloud Area Planning Organization, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Federal Department of Transportation, and the bulk of the proposed trail will run through industrial parks in the area and some other interests that haven't been identified yet. But even though it is a complicated project it is also a critical project to be considered for the future transportation needs of the area.
The BNSF railroad is reluctant to give up any of it's right of way for obvious reasons. It wants to protect itself from liability exposure it sees resulting from pedestrians and cyclists using the trail. If someone is injured by a train they will be the first party likely to be sued for damages.
However this is an issue that based on existing railroad/trail combinations around the US has shown to be a non issue. Nearly 150 such combinations exist in the US without a single fatality reported. The railroads liability can be significantly reduced if not eliminated by partnering with Stearns County on this project.
To be continued....