- Christopher Martin
- The 2.5 mile trail, originally scheduled to open last summer, will link Piedmont Park and (eventually) DeKalb Avenue
So, the Atlanta Beltline's Eastside Trail
. That long-awaited, 2.5-mile path linking Piedmont Park and DeKalb Avenue. As has been noted in the past, the trail was supposed to open last summer. Last we heard it was scheduled to be complete in April
. Don't dry clean your custom-made ribbon-cutting ceremony muumuu just yet, however. The official opening, Beltline officials told community members during a Feb. 9 update session (PDF
), is now "this summer." CL
chatted with Beltline spokesman Ethan Davidson and Senior Landscape Architect Kevin W. Burke late last week about the trail's progress.
* Why the delay? "Unforeseen conditions." In addition to negotiating the right to use more than 30 adjacent properties for the future transit line (at no cost), work crews had to dig up thousands of tons of contaminated soil and address minor natural disasters. "During a three-inch rain storm last spring we had a slope failure in the middle of night," Burke says, referring to the part of the trail that snakes behind the Midtown Arts Cinema. "By time we analyzed why it happened and implemented the solution, we lost a month on this one item." Crews also had to excavate a 170-foot granite siding buried near Grinnell Lofts near Parish. And then there was the mysterious manhole that, once opened, revealed a sewer made of four different materials — stone, brick, concrete, and then a railroad tie. "We keep finding things buried under ground," Burke says. "We had no way to know what they were, and when you aggregate them, they add several months to the schedule... Have we made mistakes? Yes. Has the contractor made mistakes? Yes. It's across the board. But we've learned a great deal from this. And this will inform us as we move forward, not just with other trails, but transit."
* Expect crews to close Ponce de Leon Avenue for two weekends, from Friday evening to Monday morning, to "lift" the bridge spanning the busy thoroughfare that serves approximately 30,000 vehicles each day. (Beltline officials don't have a specific start date yet for the project — which they expect to last three months — but are aiming for before Easter.) They'll then install coverings to protect cars passing underneath while crews "de-lead" the bridge. "We will take all the paint off down to metal, prime it, get it painted," Burke says. "It'll be sort of a silver, deeper gray. It'll have nine-foot stainless-steel mesh fencing, required by GDOT over this sort of road." Expect another round of closures when the cleaning is finished to "lower" the bridge. Davidson says Beltline officials know the closure will be an inconvenience and are reaching out to NPUs, neighborhood groups, and even trucking associations.
* Crews will also close Ralph McGill Boulevard for 30 days — most likely in March — to install a new bridge dedicated to the trail. Burke says residents on each side of the project will have access to Freedom Parkway and Boulevard, respectively, so any inconvenience should be minimal.
* The trail, for now, will stop at Irwin Street rather than DeKalb Avenue. Why? Beltline officials want to wait until a new Edgewood Avenue bridge is built, which could incorporate both Beltline's transit line and trail. The move could help connect the Beltline to the downtown streetcar. Once the bridge is built, Burke says, work crews will finish the trail to DeKalb Avenue. "It's not that we're abandoning this, but deferring it until an intelligent time."
* Crews dug up approximately 1,400 tons of contaminated soil along the proposed trail. All the soil, Burke says, was transported to licensed and regulated landfills. "Both are roughly in the 40- or 50-miles-away range. We work with [the state Environmental Protection Division], there's a format, you have to show them truck receipts and everything."
* Landscaping will be installed on one side of the trail. The future transit right-of-way will be preserved. "We don't want to put trees on the side and then have transit come through and impact them," he says. An example of the retaining walls and the mesh fencing that will appear along some parts of the project can be seen to the right.
* So what comes next? Davidson says Beltline officials will begin looking at adding connections to the street from the trail. Connections to Ponce, which will have an ADA accessible connection and possibly a staircase, will be paid for with a grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission. He says design work is also currently underway for the trail extension down to Reynoldstown and Glenwood Park. Officials are also looking at designing extensions on the Beltline's southwest segment along right-of-way that the project leases from Georgia Department of Transportation.
[Note: I've updated the post to correct an error about the location of Grinnell Lofts.]