Since the Atlanta Beltline's Eastside Trail debuted two years ago this month, the multi-purpose trail has garnered international media attention and accolades, a fervent local fanbase and countless investment dollars from folks wanting to live and build near it. A 2.25-mile ribbon of concrete has profoundly changed the city. But most Beltline patrons will say the one thing it's sorely lacking is … more Beltline. Officials have repeatedly said construction on the Eastside Trail extension and brand-new Westside Trail would begin this fall. Well, it's fall — and the next Beltline sections are filled with more cricket chirps than backhoe growls. So we put a series of questions to a team of Beltline officials to get the most thorough and up-to-date information on where these projects stand. After the jump, those officials talk timeline shifts, the unexpected setbacks of the past and how Atlanta's west could beat the east in the race for construction.
Curbed Atlanta: Beltline officials have repeatedly said the Eastside Trail's southern extension — through Cabbagetown and Reynoldstown, to Memorial Drive — will begin this fall. When can we expect to see large machines moving dirt?
Beltline officials: Atlanta BeltLine Inc. is currently reviewing the 100 percent design documents and construction cost estimates we received (earlier this month). After the final plans have gone through the requisite permitting and all funding is confirmed, ABI will bid the project for construction. At this point in time, it is looking like it will be early 2015 before we start moving dirt. The timeline shifted when we refined the design to make for a better trail experience.
Q: Can you briefly give an idea how much this facet of the Beltline project will cost and how it was funded?
A: Once we are through the bidding process, we will be able to disclose the cost estimate. This trail segment will have several funding sources including the City of Atlanta, the Woodruff Foundation and other philanthropic donors.
Q: Once construction begins, will segments open piecemeal? Will people be able to access, say, the segment from Irwin Street to DeKalb Avenue while construction continues elsewhere?
A: ABI will work with the construction contractor to facilitate the quickest, most cost effective way to build the trail. It is possible that the whole corridor will go into construction at one time or that it is done one segment at a time with sections reopening as they are complete. Once the contractor has determined his approach, more information will be available in answer to this question.
Q: Do you have a timeline for how long it'll take to complete the trail's extension to Memorial drive, once construction begins?
A: We anticipate that it will take 15 to 18 months, but will have a better idea once we have a contractor in place.
Q: What's the latest with the connections between the rebuilt Edgewood Avenue bridge and the trail below it?
A: Other than some minor finishing touches, the ramp and stairs from Edgewood Avenue to the Atlanta BeltLine are complete. The trail will join the landing pad that is constructed on our corridor. During construction, these access points will be closed, but until then, people are welcome to access the hiking trail from Edgewood Avenue.
Q: Can you paint the picture of what the Beltline will look like as it passes through the Krog Street Tunnel and hangs a left on Wylie Street? To my knowledge, that'll be the first time the trail mingles so closely with vehicle traffic.
A: Within the Krog Street tunnel, the eastern walkway will have concrete pavers installed to enhance the surface in addition to new railings and LED lighting. It will be a pedestrian and "walk your wheels" zone. The western walkway, which is higher than the east, will get new railings and lights. Green paths will be painted on the roadway to alert drivers to share the road with cyclists in the tunnel.
Along Wylie Street, the multi-use trail will run along the northern sidewalk. It will be 10 feet wide at that point (standard for our trails that are not directly in the old railroad corridor) along with a two-foot landscaped shoulder between the trail and street. Wylie Street itself will get speed humps and refreshed sharrows. The sidewalk on the southern side of the street will also remain.
Q: In late 2012, the Woodruff Foundation gave a $3 million grant to help develop the Eastside Trail that, at the time, sounded like a windfall. Can you give an indication how those funds were spent, or will be spent?
A: The grant provided by the Woodruff Foundation was used along with other philanthropic donations to design and construct the Gateway (to Historic Fourth Ward Park), as well as to fund the design of the Eastside Trail southern extension.
Q: Speaking of grants, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $18 million about a year ago to kick-start construction of the three-mile Westside Trail. That was about 40 percent of the total cost. Last time we asked, construction was set to begin this fall. What's the latest on the western front?
A: We are still anticipating a fall start on the construction of the Westside Trail (likely in mid-November). We are finalizing the bid review process with our partners at the Federal Highway Administration and the Georgia Department of Transportation before hiring the contractor. Once we have signed on a contractor, we will have a solid start date.
Q: When the existing Eastside Trail was being built, it ran into "unforeseen conditions" like contaminated soil and buried walls and sewer lines. Those surprises pushed back the completion date again and again. The trail was supposed to open in summer 2011, and the ribbon cutting didn't come until fall 2012. Are you worried the Eastside Trail extension or the Westside Trail could run into similar troubles?
A: When we work in urban environments and, especially with old railroad corridors, it is very difficult to account for all that has gone on for the last 150+ years. We recognize the likelihood of a "surprise" and are prepared to adapt our plan in order to deal with anything we find. We have also taken into account our experiences on the Eastside Trail and have tried to factor that into our construction estimate for the extension.
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