May 10, 2013
We are thrilled to announce that the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has approved Minnesota’s third section of U.S. Bike Route 45, which follows the Mississippi River Trail, and U.S. Bike Route 76 in Missouri, which follows our TransAmerica Bicycle Trail. In addition, Kentucky submitted a complete application for re-designation of its portion of U.S. Bike Route 76. (TransAm). (Read the AASHTO report, in PDF format, on all U.S. Route Numbering applications.)
With the completion of the middle section through Minneapolis and St. Paul, U.S. Bicycle Route (USBR) 45 now runs the entire length of the Mississippi River in Minnesota from the headwaters at Itasca State Park in northwestern Minnesota to the Iowa border. Also known as the Mississippi River Trail (MRT), USBR 45 spans 700 miles, with route options on both sides of the river in certain sections.
The northern segment of USBR 45, designated in October 2012, begins in Itasca State Park, where the river originates 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 roughly 100 miles on the Heartland State Trail and Paul Bunyan State Trail. These routes merge in Brainerd, where the river widens and the land opens into farmland. The newly approved middle segment passes through the Twin Cities Metropolitan 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 great restaurants, museums, parks, and festivals along the river. The southern segment, which was designated in May 2012, extends from just south of the Twin Cities Metro area in Hastings to the Iowa border. Also known as the Mississippi Bluffs segment of the MRT, this section includes bicycle-friendly roads and multi-use paths that closely follow the Mississippi River through steep limestone bluffs and hardwood forests.
“Designating the entire length of USBR 45 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.” This summer the Minnesota Department of Transportation will begin installing MRT bike route signs in order for bicyclists to navigate the route. Detailed maps and information are available to print, or access via smart phone or GPS unit, at www.mndot.gov/bike/mrt.
Missouri’s newly approved U.S. Bicycle Route 76, also known as the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, begins at the Mississippi River in Chester, Illinois, traversing 348.5 miles before exiting the state 28 miles west of Golden City. The route passes through the hilly Ozark Mountains then levels out toward the western end of the state. Considered by geologists to be one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, the Ozark Range consists of deeply eroded hills, which are blanketed by hardwoods and pines, small farms, and numerous rivers. Farmington, a mid-sized town along the route, is a bicycle-friendly community featuring a local bike shop, TransAm Cyclery, the TransAm Inn, a hostel known affectionately as Al’s Place. Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park on the East Fork of the Black River offers a spectacular demonstration of Mother Nature’s hydraulics in a series of rock chutes and channels — a must stop for swimming. The route also passes through the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, a national park created to protect the Current and Jacks Fork rivers, and the scenic Alley Mill, or "Old Red Mill" history museum located in Alley Spring. In western Missouri, the route intersects the 35-mile Frisco Highline Trail in the small town of Walnut Grove. Before leaving the state, cyclists should be sure to stop at Cooky's Cafe in Golden City to sample one of their homemade pies.
The Missouri Department of Transportation will begin installing USBR 76 signs along the route later this summer.
In Kentucky, U.S. Bike Route 76 spans 563.7 miles, entering the state near Elkhorn City and leaving at the Ohio River crossing via the Cave In Rock ferry. The route, which was originally designated in 1982, had not been documented electronically at AASHTO and was in need of some updates. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet did a thorough review of the route across the state and submitted realignments for the route based on their rural road bicycle level of service model. This is another great tool that we’ll be able to share with other states working on implementation.
Kentucky’s U.S. Bike Route 76 passes through a variety of terrain from the steep Appalachian Mountains in the east, and the hilly, wooded Cumberland Plateau to the rolling, fertile farmland of the Bluegrass Region. Berea, known as the gateway to the Appalachian Mountains and coal mining, is a notable highlight, home to Berea College as well as several museums. On the route, cyclists will pass the Lincoln Homestead State Park, and they can access the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site by taking a short side trip off the route. Mammoth Cave National Park, the longest explored cave system in the world, is 40 miles south of the route but well worth the ride. The Rough River Dam State Park offers boat rides on the reservoir and bird watching opportunities. Once cyclists reach the Bluegrass Region, they will be treated to white-fenced horse farms and quaint towns known for their antique shops, country dining, and southern country hospitality.
Progress continues on building the largest official bike route network in the world! We value the wonderful support we receive from our memembers, volunteers, transportaion and natural resource agencies, trail managers, federal land managers, and many others. Thank you.
Photo of USBR 45/MRT in Minnesota courtesy of MnDOT
Photo of USBR 76 in Missouri by Bill Harrison
Photo of USBR 76 in Kentucky by Jeff Hiles
BUILDING THE U.S. BICYCLE ROUTE SYSTEM is posted by the Travel Initiatives Department and focuses on news related to the emerging U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS). During National Bike Month, Adventure Cycling is raising funds to support the creation of this national network of bicycle routes. This year, we hope to raise $100,000 by May 31. Donate today!
The USBRS project is a collaborative effort, spearheaded by a task force under the auspices of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). Members of the task force include officials and staff from state DOTs, the Federal Highway Administration, and nonprofits like the East Coast Greenway Alliance and Mississippi River Trail, Inc.