Minneapolis and St. Paul are fortunate to sit astride the Mississippi, one of the world’s great rivers. Yet there are several areas where the river separates the cities and a pedestrian/bike bridge would be a well-used addition.
The span between the Lake Street-Marshall Avenue bridge and the Ford Parkway bridge would be where an additional pedestrian-bike bridge could better connect Minneapolis and St. Paul and improve the immediate neighborhoods.
Currently, that part of the Mississippi is effectively the Atlantic Ocean – residents from both cities can really only approach the river and gaze across to the other side, or at the existing bridges far up and down this span.
But an attractive, well-designed pedestrian bridge connecting East 38th Street in Minneapolis and St. Clair Avenue in St. Paul would be a wonderful improvement. It would increase the connectivity of the neighborhoods on either side. People in St. Paul would be able to walk or bike to the Riverview Theater or the restaurants on the Minneapolis side, while students at St. Thomas, St. Kate’s, and Macalester would be able to live on the Minneapolis side and bike or even walk to class in St. Paul.
It would also make that part of the river more walkable and bikeable. Currently, the distance around the existing Lake-Marshall/Ford Parkway loop is 5.61 miles – a distance that takes two hours to walk. That's not a casual stroll around Lake of the Isles or Como Lake.
This area would become a destination because it’s more useable. People could come to walk around the south loop or the north loop, cyclists could come from deeper in the two cities because they’re now better connected to the other side, and others would come to enjoy an artfully designed bridge and the quiet views of the Mississippi.
There are several layers of regulatory obstacles to a bridge, but because this would be closed to the noise and pollution of vehicles, I’d think they could be overcome with popular support.
A simple bridge wouldn’t do significant ecological harm to the river. In fact, I believe the opposite would happen: More people would come to appreciate the Mississippi.