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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Beltline transit director leaves project

Posted By on Tue, Jun 10, 2014 at 9:09 PM

NESegmentTrailDesign.jpg
  • Atlanta Beltline Inc./Perkins + Will
The Beltline official who has overseen the smart-growth project's transit and transportation program since its beginning has left.

Nathan Conable of Atlanta Beltline inc., the nonprofit tasked with planning and developing the $4.8 billion project, left the organization May 30.

It's unclear if Conable, who has been involved with the project's transit component since ABI was formed in 2006, resigned or was pushed out. An ABI spokesman last week declined to comment on the nature of Conable's exit because it's a personnel matter.

"All I can say is that ABI decided to move in a different direction on transit and transportation," he said, adding that the decision does not affect the Beltline's transit plan.

The Beltline, which urban designer Ryan Gravel first envisioned as a transit program when he created the project as a Georgia Tech graduate student, currently doesn't have active rail service. And it could be years - or even longer - before modern streetcars operate alongside the multi-use trail system taking shape along some parts of the project. But transit takes years to plan, especially if the specific project wants to compete for federal funding.

And Conable's exit comes at a critical juncture. Next March, city officials are expected to ask voters if they want to take on as much as $250 million in debt to pay for infrastructure. Any number of sidewalk, road, or bridges could make the list. Transit projects could as well. Beltline officials would like to start transit construction in the next five years. And Mayor Kasim Reed has often mentioned public-private partnerships as a way of speeding up the Beltline's rail program. (A spokeswoman for Reed declined comment on Conable's exit, saying the mayor played no role in the decision.)

Lisa Gordon, ABI's chief operating officer and to whom Conable reported, will oversee the department until a new transit division head is found. That search, the spokesman said, began immediately.

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