By Jenny Odom
Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. (ABI) held a study group meeting on July 31 at Church of Atlanta Lighthouse on Boulevard. The purpose of this meeting was to present the findings from the open house that was held in April of 2018 and receive your feedback on the draft recommendations for land use (e.g. mixed use, housing, commercial services), mobility (e.g. trails, sidewalks, bikes, transit), parks, and greenspace in BeltLine Subarea 3. In 2007, master planning began by looking at the one-half mile on either side of the Atlanta BeltLine corridor to create a framework to support future growth and transit in the corridor. There are 10 distinct subarea masterplans for the Atlanta BeltLine and they are subject to periodic review and adoption by City Council. This was the third in a series of public meetings to gather community input on the Subarea 3 Master Plan.
ABI has announced that funding has been identified that will allow for the construction of a 0.75-mile segment of the paved Southside Trail from the southern terminus of the Westside Trail at University Avenue to the Annie E. Casey Foundation site at Pittsburgh Yards, just west of the I-75/85 overpass. This initial stretch of trail was selected due to its connection to three open and emerging job centers: Pittsburgh Yards, Murphy Crossing, and Lee + White.
“We are thrilled at this opportunity to invest in communities in south and southwest Atlanta and to spur economic investment between key developing job centers,” said Clyde Higgs, President and CEO of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. “We look forward to building on this initial segment to connect the Atlanta BeltLine to all neighborhoods and businesses in the southern crescent.”
In a community Study Group meeting on July 22, ABI announced the upcoming plans for furthering the mainline Southside Trail, which will extend approximately four miles from the terminus of the Westside Trail near University Avenue to the terminus of the Eastside Trail at Memorial Drive. ABI anticipates completing pre-construction design and real estate acquisitions for the entire four-mile length of the 14-foot paved multi-use trail over the next several months. ABI always hopes to build large segments of trails, however, funding realities necessitate the segmentation of trail construction. A phased approach allows for an accelerated construction of individual segments while keeping the remaining corridor open in an interim condition for public use while the remainder of funding is secured.
The build-out of the paved multi-use trail, currently known as Southside Trail–West, will include a 14-foot-wide concrete trail, ADA-accessible access points at Allene Avenue and Metropolitan Parkway with appropriate crosswalks and signalization, environmental remediation of the corridor, lights, security cameras, utility relocations, storm water drainage, retention walls, and full landscaping. Construction of this first segment is slated to begin fall of 2019 and expected to take approximately 12 months to complete. The construction schedule will be confirmed once a general contractor is hired. The topography of the former railroad corridor in this stretch is conducive to straight-forward construction. Upon selection of a general contractor, ABI will hold another community meeting to introduce them to the public. Additional community meetings will be hosted during the construction process.
The balance of the Southside Trail corridor will open as an unpaved interim trail in August 2019 (note that Southside Trail–West described in the preceding paragraph will also open as an interim trail but will close as soon as construction begins on the paved trail). The interim trail includes regrading of the former rail corridor, access to 11 public streets, environmental remediation, bridge handrails, crosswalks in at-grade crossings with appropriate signage and signals, and lighting in tunnels. The interim trail is funded through contributions to the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership’s Opening the Corridor capital campaign, including a lead gift from The Coca-Cola Foundation.
ABI is also partnering with the City of Atlanta and the Georgia Department of Transportation to construct interim improvements along Bill Kennedy Way between Glenwood Avenue and I-20 to provide better temporary facilities for trail users. These interim improvements include a 10-foot-wide path through the existing I-20 interchange, protected from traffic by a concrete barrier. Between I-20 and Glenwood Avenue, the continuation of the 10-foot-wide path would be protected from traffic by a landscaped median. These interim improvements are expected to be open to trail users by mid-2020.
ABI, the City of Atlanta, and the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership continue to seek out the additional funds needed to construct the rest of the paved Southside Trail. The City of Atlanta applied for a $16M federal BUILD Grant in July on behalf of ABI, which, if awarded, will combine with added local funds to construct the easternmost 1.5 miles of the Southside Trail from the northern side of I-20 over Bill Kennedy Way to Boulevard. In addition to the concrete trail with its access points, lights, cameras, and landscaping, the funding would also support the construction of a new pedestrian bridge over I-20 alongside Bill Kennedy Way. If awarded the grant, this section would commence construction in late 2021.
For the 1.75-mile section of the Southside Trail between I-75/85 and Boulevard, the paved trail is expected to be shovel-ready in 2020. As soon as additional funds are secured, ABI will procure a contractor to begin construction on this final segment of the paved Southside Trail.
For more information on the Subarea 3 Master Plan, visit https://beltlineorg-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/FINAL_SA3_SC_Mtg2_Presentation-2.pdf or https://beltlineorg-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Supporting-Boards_SA3-2.pdf.Jenny Odom is the ABI Communications & Media Relations Manager.