Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Beltline officials pray feds will help them mimic Eastside Trail in southwest Atlanta

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2013 at 11:30 AM

Atlanta Beltline officials are hoping that they can turn the project's often-overlooked southwest segment between Washington Park and Adair Park into a bicyclists and pedestrians' paradise similar to the wildly popular Eastside Trail. And they're asking for financial assistance from the federal government.

The Atlanta City Council's Transportation Committee today gave its blessing to project leaders' application for an $18 million TIGER grant to help build a 2.4-mile bicycle and pedestrian trail along the segment between Lena Street and Allene Avenue. The 14-foot-wide project, which would run past four parks and boast 14 access points of entry, would connect with an existing Beltline bike trail that sits mostly outside the old railroad corridor.

"It would essentially allow us to construct the same type of facility on the west side that we've been able to open on the east side," said Tom Weyandt, Mayor Kasim Reed's transportation advisor. Atlanta Beltline Inc., the nonprofit tasked with planning and developing the smart-growth project, is still working on final designs, he said.

The remainder of the project's $47 million cost would come from the Beltline's tax allocation district, local matching funds from the Georgia Department of Transportation, and already committed federal funds.

Why the high price tag for a 2.4-mile trail? Weyandt said it includes purchasing right-of-way to preserve land for future transit along the project. If GDOT expedites the review process, ABI says construction could begin next October or November.

Ron Shakir, a southwest Atlanta community activist and fixture on the City Hall public comment speakers' circuit, said the city was wrong to pursue the project.

"We're talking about a trail," he told councilmembers. "A trail in that community... I wonder how much did the community call for this type of support? This is a machine moving forward. We know the Belltine is hopping on one leg. If we were fair on this assessment, we would slow down and look at this much more carefully. To continue to pour money into rail development, is very questionable and irresponsible."

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