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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Beltline's tipping point

click to enlarge IMAGINE TRANSIT HERE: The path of the Beltline, seen here crossing Ponce de Leon Avenue, crosses through 45 Atlanta neighborhoods.
  • IMAGINE TRANSIT HERE: The path of the Beltline, seen here crossing Ponce de Leon Avenue, crosses through 45 Atlanta neighborhoods.

You can understand why Beltline officials have earmarked $10,000 in the project's upcoming fiscal year for "crisis communications."

Since the city embarked on its mission to build a 22-mile loop of parks, trails and transit around Atlanta's urban core — a project that officials say will transform the city from a car-dependent hodgepodge of villages to a smart-growth wonderland served by streetcar — it's faced its share of catastrophes.

In 2008, a state Supreme Court ruling temporarily stripped the Beltline of half its funding. Later that year, a controversial payout to Gwinnett County developer Wayne Mason raised questions over decisions about how the project allocated taxpayer dollars. In January, a bitter battle over rusty railroad tracks waged by the Beltline and a partnership of Amtrak and the Georgia Department of Transportation seemed ready to cripple the project.

But in all these crises, the Beltline emerged victorious. And on July 10, project officials had more good news to report.

After weeks of negotiations, Beltline officials struck a deal for two vital segments of GDOT-owned abandoned railroad tracks in southwest and southeast Atlanta. Atlanta Beltline Inc., the agency charged with implementing the project, now controls nearly 50 percent of the right-of-way it needs to form the spine of the 22-mile transit loop.

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