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Federal funding in the form of Transportation Alternatives and a TIGER grant ensured the success of converting Atlanta, Georgia's 22-mile loop of unused railroad right-of-way to a trail.

arrow Featured in the Spring 2014 issue of American Trails Magazine

 

Atlanta BeltLine Pounces on TIGER Grant

 

Margaret Mitchell became a famous and beloved citizen of Atlanta after she hit superstardom with her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Gone with the Wind. She died tragically at the age of 48 when a car hit her as she crossed Peachtree Street on foot. To this day, Atlanta’s attention to safety for pedestrians and cyclists begs for improvement, and the specter of Mitchell’s death lingers.

photo of corridor between forest and industries

TIGER funds will be used along this abandoned rail corridor located about
2.7 miles southwest of the state capitol in downtown Atlanta. The funds
will be used to construct new trail and preserve streetcar right-of-way.

 

Margaret Mitchell became a famous and beloved citizen of Atlanta after she hit superstardom with her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Gone with the Wind. She died tragically at the age of 48 when a car hit her as she crossed Peachtree Street on foot. To this day, Atlanta’s attention to safety for pedestrians and cyclists begs for improvement, and the specter of Mitchell’s death lingers.

The Atlanta BeltLine has changed some negative perceptions, and also some negative realities. Atlanta BeltLine Incorporated says the project is “among the largest, most wide-ranging urban redevelopment and mobility projects currently underway in the United States.”

The Atlanta BeltLine is a project to reclaim a 22-mile loop of unused freight-rail corridor that circles the City. The project includes the construction of shared-use trails, trailheads and access points, and the preservation of a future streetcar transit corridor.

To the surprise of many, the BeltLine so far has been a resounding success, even though only about five bike/ped miles and four parks have been completed. A two-mile section in the heart of the City, known as the Eastside Trail, was completed in October 2012, but Mayor Kasim Reed’s office claims that that trail has already been a redevelopment catalyst: “Roughly $775 million in private real estate development [was] completed or underway within a half-mile of the project since 2005.”

photo of lights srtreaming along dark trail

The Lantern Parade along the Eastside Trail in September 2013 kicked off
the annual exhibition of public art on the Beltline.

 

Carissa Craven, age 39, expressed relief about the Eastside Trail. She was born and raised in Atlanta. “For anyone who has lived in Atlanta and spent any time going somewhere on foot or on a bicycle, the Eastside Trail is a delight. I think having this beautiful green space running through Atlanta has done a lot to lower everyone's blood pressure.”

The City of Atlanta announced in early September of 2013, that the BeltLine will receive a grant of $18 million from the Department of Transportation’s TIGER program. The grant will assist in the development of a 2.5-mile portion of the BeltLine corridor, including the preservation of the right-of-way needed for the future streetcar line, and the extensive grading needed to transform the corridor’s single-track structure.

The Atlanta Regional Commission announced additional grant funding in late September of 2013. That grant will provide $719,000 in Transportation Alternatives Program funds to design the southeastern portion of the BeltLine loop, according to the BeltLine’s Director of Communications, Ethan Davidson.

 

In February of 2014, the US Environmental Protection Agency awarded the Atlanta BeltLine its annual award for Overall Excellence in Smart Growth. “The Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail and Historic Fourth Ward Park's most outstanding achievement has been to connect people,” said the EPA’s press release. “What were once a deserted industrial landscape and an unused, overgrown, and debris-filled rail corridor are now thriving, active neighborhood assets where neighbors come together to socialize, exercise, shop, commute, and enjoy great new public places.”

One happy coincidence of the planned BeltLine route is that it includes a spur trail to the historic Oakland Cemetery, located in the southeastern section of the loop. Many illustrious Atlantans are buried at Oakland Cemetery. Margaret Mitchell’s grave is there, and perhaps she will rest easier when the BeltLine brings more cyclists and walkers paying friendly visits to her permanent residence.

 

For more information:

Atlanta BeltLine: http://beltline.org/

Download map of Atlanta BeltLine (pdf 2.5 mb)

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