About the Greenway

The Trail

The Midtown Greenway is a 5.5-mile long former railroad corridor in south Minneapolis with bicycling and walking trails.  It is owned by the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority and the trails are maintained by the City of Minneapolis.  The Midtown Greenway Coalition is the grassroots organization that successfully advocated for installation of the Midtown Greenway by public agencies.  The Coalition continues to engage our community in protecting, improving, and using the Greenway.

For most of its distance across the city, the corridor is grade-separated from the street grid, either in a gorge passing under bridges carrying streets overhead, or on a levy with traffic passing underneath it.  This offers barrier-free bicycling that can make cross-town trips faster than going by car.  

To the west, the Greenway connects with paths around the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes and the Southwest LRT Trail extending to the western suburbs. To the east, the Greenway connects with paths along the Mississippi River.

The Greenway serves a very ethnically and economically diverse community.  All the way across Minneapolis the Midtown Greenway runs parallel to nearby Lake Street, a commercial strip with hundreds of retailers, restaurants, and other businesses.  

The Greenway trails are plowed in the winter, lit at night, and open 24/7.  Several thousand people use the Greenway each spring, summer, or fall day, and hundreds of hearty cyclists and runners use it each winter day no matter how cold or snowy. 

The County’s long term plan for the corridor includes an express rail transit service operating alongside the trails and serving as an important part of a regional rail transit system.  The Midtown Greenway Coalition supports this pursuit of rail transit in the Midtown Greenway.

Greenway Etiquette

A lot of people use the Greenway, and they ride, walk, and blade at all different speeds.  To avoid accidents, please respect these basic rules of trail etiquette:

  • Stick as far to the right side of the trail as possible, and in your designated lane (i.e., pedestrians stay out of the bike lanes and bikers stay out of the pedestrian lanes).
  • When passing, announce your intentions LOUDLY and BEFORE you pass—“On your left!” lets the person ahead of you know to move over and to not have a heart attack when you go speeding by.
  • Be aware that other people may want to pass you!  Listen (not to your iPod—to the world!), and stick to the right.
  • Be predictable.  Check in front of you and behind you before you turn, to ensure that no one is there.  Use hand signals to alert other trail users of your intentions, especially when exiting the trail.
  • Yield to slower and oncoming traffic.
  • Obey traffic signs and signals at crossings.
  • Pull off the trail to stop.
  • Clean up litter!  A clean Greenway is a safe Greenway.
  • Be hyper-aware when merging onto the trail or passing an entrance ramp—a lot of the entrance points don’t have great visibility, and collisions are best avoided if everybody is paying attention.
  • When the trail is busy, ride single file.
  • Know if you’ve outgrown the trail.  The Greenway is narrow and primarily a commuter and recreational trail—if you’re using it for high-speed training, you may be endangering other riders.  Choosing an alternative option could be safer and more enjoyable for all concerned.

Above all, BE COURTEOUS to other trail users at all times.  Many accidents can be avoided if everyone exercises common sense.  Be aware, be polite, and enjoy the Greenway!

Why do so many people love the Greenway?

Watch this video to find out!

Ride the Greenway in the winter!

Interested in learning more about riding the Greenway in the winter?  Click here to read the Rails to Trails cover story about using the Midtown Greenway during the cold months.

History of the Greenway

1882 - The Midtown Greenway first became a rail corridor 125 years ago as a part of the Milwaukee Railroad’s main line to the west coast. Back then, the rail line was on the southern fringe of Minneapolis but, as the city grew, there were more and more conflicts with the many trains crossing streets at grade. 

1912 - The Minneapolis City Council directed the railroad to undertake a grade separation by placing the rail line in a trench between Cedar Ave. and Hennepin Ave. This project took place between 1914 and 1916 and was the largest civil works project in the state after James. J. Hill’s Stone Arch Bridge crossing the Mississippi.

1992 - A handful of people began sharing ideas about turning the 29th Street rail corridor into an amenity-rich bike trail and the Midtown Greenway Coalition began meeting as a group of volunteers.

1993 - Rail traffic in the corridor had slowed to a trickle and MnDOT wanted the eastern end severed so Hiawatha Ave. could be rebuilt. The Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA) purchased the corridor for future transit.

1995 - The Midtown Greenway Coalition was incorporated as a non-profit and hired its first staff person on a contract part-time basis.

1999 - The Minnesota Legislature provided funding to the Metropolitan Council, our regional government, for construction of a busway in the Twin Cities. The Midtown Greenway Corridor was chosen. The Midtown Greenway Coalition board of directors passed a resolution opposing a busway and calling for light rail or a streetcar line instead.  The resolution can be found here.

2000 - At a public meeting in January, the Metropolitan Council agreed to conduct a study of streetcars in the Greenway. The Coalition disagreed with some of the assumptions and undertook its own Streetcar Feasibility Study. The Coalition hired nationally-known consultant Jim Graebner, who designed a system that would have cost $53 million in 2005 dollars.  For more information on that feasibility study and the Midtown Greenway Coalition’s advocacy work for a streetcar line, click here.

In August of 2000, Phase One of the Greenway bike and pedestrian trails opened from the intersection of 31st Street and Chowen Avenue to 5th Avenue. 

2001 - Rail service in the corridor was abandoned. A year later, the remaining railroad tracks between Hiawatha and Chowen Avenues were removed. The segment east of Hiawatha remains active.

2004 - Phase Two opened from 5th Avenue to Hiawatha Avenue. 

2005 - The Midtown Greenway becomes a historic landmark property as a part of the Reinforced-Concrete Highway Bridges in Minnesota Multiple Property Submission, as the "Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad Grade Separation," between Humboldt and 20th Avenues S.

2006 - Phase Three of the Greenway opened, connecting Hiawatha Avenue to the Mississippi River. 

Also in 2006, Minneapolis began a Streetcar Feasibility Study and Hennepin County through the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA) began evaluating alternative alignments for the Southwest LRT Corridor. In a December 13, 2006, meeting, three alternative alignments were selected for further study. One of the alternatives would run a light rail line east through the Greenway as far as Nicollet.

2007 - The Martin Olav Sabo Bridge opened, bypassing a dangerous at-grade crossing at Hiawatha Avenue.

2008 - The Freewheel Midtown Bike Center opened, consisting of a bike store, repair shop and shower and locker facilities, and the home of Midtown Greenway Coalition's new office.

2011 - The Southwest LRT draft environmental impact study was submitted for federal review, and is pending further study of freight transit relocation options. Metro Transit was granted funds to conduct an Alternatives Analysis of various transit options along the Midtown Corridor. The Midtown Greenway Coalition board passed a resolution calling for the implementation of a turf track streetcar in the Greenway. 

2012 - The Midtown Greenway Coalition, working in partnership with neighborhood groups, wins a two-year battle to keep high-voltage power lines out of the Greenway.  The lines will go under 28th Street instead.   The Coalition also joins a task force to help design the sub-stations, making them less ugly and more like works of art.

2012 - The Midtown Greenway Coalition works with community members and neighborhood groups towards the vision for a turf track Midtown Greenway Streetcar. In the fall, Metro Transit will kick off the Alternatives Analysis. 

 
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