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Three agencies discussing bridge trail connections in Hastings

When plans for the new Highway 61 bridge were originally presented, they included a pedestrian and cycling trail to give non-motorized traffic a safe and attractive route across the river. However, the trail simply ended at the north side of the bridge. Since those original plans came out, staff from the City of Hastings, Washington County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation have been working on a new trail plan.

Parks and Recreation Director Barry Bernstein presented three concepts to the Parks and Recreation Commission Tuesday evening. All three concepts connect the Hastings bridge trail to an existing trail at Point Douglas by Prescott. The concern is how to get the trail across two sets of railroad tracks.

One concept makes use of the right of way on Highway 61 to build new mixed use trail bridges alongside the roadway. The second concept widens the existing roadway bridges and places pedestrian traffic there, separated from motorized traffic by some sort of barrier. The third option, which would be the most costly, involves extending a road that loops under the new bridge to provide safer marina access. If the third option were chosen, the loop road would extend all the way to King's Cove Marina on the east side of Highway 61, and the trail would follow that extension over the first set of tracks. A separate bridge would be built along the highway over the second set of tracks. All the concept plans are still subject to change.

MN/DOT is developing the plans, and from all indications, the city would not be affected financially.

Connecting the Hastings bridge trail to Point Douglas would link Hastings to a long trail network. Washington County is working on a trail heading north along the St. Croix River from Point Douglas, and Prescott already has a number of trail connections, Bernstein said. Other work is being done on trails on the south side of the Mississippi as well. This summer, a trail along Spring Lake is expected to be completed, and other plans are being developed for trails south to Red Wing.

"Think of Hastings as that trail hub," Bernstein told the commission. "... You come to Hastings, you can get on your bike and ride."