National recognition for Bike Route 45
The Mississippi River Trail — also known as U.S. Bicycle Route 45 — received national recognition when federal officials announced approval of USBR 45 through the Twin Cities Metro area. The route now officially runs the entire length of the Mississippi River in Minnesota.
The MRT/USBR 45 connects 700 miles of existing shouldered highways, low-use roads and off-road paths for bicyclists and closely follows the Mississippi River from the headwaters at Itasca State Park to the Iowa border. Some sections have route options on both sides of the river.
“Designating the entire length of the MRT shows a strong support for bicycling in Minnesota,” said Tim Mitchell, Minnesota Department of Transportation bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. “The route is a unique collaboration among many local communities and state authorities. It creates regional connections and shared interests.”
To date, 5,616 miles of U.S. Bicycle Routes have been designated in 10 states: Alaska, Kentucky, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Virginia. Presently, more than 40 states are working to create U.S. Bicycle Routes.
Adventure Cycling Association and the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials also announced routes in Missouri and Kentucky.
“The routes announced today are part of an emerging bike route network that is connecting communities of all types, all across the country,” said Bud Wright, executive director of AASHTO.
The newly approved middle segment passes through the Twin Cities Metro area and the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area — a 72-mile-long park managed by the National Park Service. Much of the route is on bike paths with scenic views. This segment of the route offers opportunities to connect with restaurants, museums, parks and festivals along the river.
The northern segment of USBR 45 was designated in October 2012 and begins in Itasca State Park, where the river begins as a small stream. The route then travels through the north woods and past numerous lakes to Bemidji, Cass Lake, Grand Rapids, Brainerd, Little Falls and St. Cloud. At Cass Lake, bicyclists have an off-road option to travel 100 miles on the Heartland State Trail and Paul Bunyan State Trail.
The southern segment was designated in May 2012 and extends from Hastings to the Iowa border. This section is on roads and multi-use paths that closely follow the Mississippi River through steep limestone bluffs, hardwood forests, and more than a dozen river towns.
This summer MnDOT will begin installing MRT bike route signs for bicyclists to navigate the route. Detailed maps and other information are available to print or access via smart phone/GPS at www.mndot.gov/bike/mrt.
Once complete, USBR 45 will continue south along the Mississippi River to New Orleans. In the future, the U.S. Bicycle Route System will encompass more than 50,000 miles of routes. Visit www.adventurecycling.org/routes-and-maps/us-bicycle-route-system for more information about the proposed national network.
The U.S. Bicycle Route System project is spearheaded by AASHTO’s Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbering. The project involves officials and staff from state DOTs, the Federal Highway Administration and nonprofit organizations such as Adventure Cycling Association, the East Coast Greenway Alliance and Mississippi River Trail Inc.