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Friday, September 23, 2011

Downtown PATH, regional tax's cycling projects, Tech Square bike lanes, and other two-wheeler news

Rendering of proposed Harris St. extension
  • PATH Foundation
  • Rendering of proposed Harris St. extension
Prefer riding on two wheels around Atlanta rather than sitting trapped in a car? Rebecca Serna of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition filled us in on several developments you and other cyclists can look forward to over the coming years.

First up is the PATH Foundation's extension of the existing Freedom Park trail which would run along Harris Street — excuse us, John Portman Boulevard at Historic Harris Street — through downtown Atlanta and end at Centennial Park. Two lanes of traffic along Harris Street would be removed to transform the road into a more pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare with a 10-foot-wide bike path, a tree-lined buffer and new crosswalks. The ambitious trail — the first we've heard of in Atlanta — would increase access to the hotel district and provide a link to the Atlanta Beltline. The project, which would cost $2 million and be funded by PATH, has been in development for several months but hit some snags after nearby businesses expressed concerns over how the trail might affect delivery trucks and taxis. According to Serna, PATH is working with nearby businesses to work out the proposal's kinks. Neighborhood groups have already voiced support.

Looking forward to the regional transportation-tax referendum? Though many bike trail proposals didn't make the tentative list of projects that could receive funding from the tax, there's some hope for cyclists. The referendum's fact sheet lists planned upgrades, including bike lanes, wide shoulders, and sidewalks, for many busy metro Atlanta streets. (Piedmont and Clifton Roads are two recognizable names on the list.) Another proposal vying for tax funding would provide "safe access" — meaning better pedestrian and cycling connections — to MARTA stations. Bike trails along the Atlanta Beltline might also get a boost. Though city officials are only pushing for the tax to help fund the $2.8 billion project's transit component, a Beltline spokesman tells CL that bike trails would be built at the same time next to the new light-rail or streetcar system. Voters will decide the fate of these projects next summer.

The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition has also applied for a grant for its project that could help cyclists cross busy West Peachtree Street near Technology Square. Currently, 5th Street splits into two when it intersects West Peachtree Street, creating a headache and hazard for two-wheelers heading east or west. Though it isn't a done deal yet, plans have already been drawn that would extend the existing 5th Street bike lane onto the sidewalk at the intersection. Serna says the city, Midtown Alliance, and Georgia Tech are all in support of this project, and a Bikes Belong grant application has already been submitted.

One last thing: An apartment complex developer has offered to donate 23 acres of undeveloped land along Redwine Road in very southwest Atlanta. The purpose of the land donation is to develop a bike trail that would connect with future bike paths — and create another link in the city's trail network. The Atlanta City Council must still approve the gift.

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