It's pretty foggy what exactly is happening with the southward expansion of the Beltline's Eastside Trail, but it's becoming pretty clear what isn't happening anytime soon: tangible progress. In October, Beltline officials told Curbed that plans for the extension — which would run the current trail through Cabbagetown and Reynoldstown to Memorial Drive — were in the review process, and the project was nearing the stage where it would merely wait for "requisite permitting and all funding (to be) confirmed." They predicted that dirt would start moving in early 2015. Sounds like everything is moving along, albeit behind the original target date of Fall 2014, right? Wrong. "We're still in the land acquisition and easement process with the Eastside Trail expansion. So we can't predict the actual date until this process is complete," Beltline spokeswoman Ericka Davis wrote in an email to Curbed this week. What exactly that means — How much of the land is yet to be acquired? What's the revised, potential groundbreaking date? — isn't clear. Davis said she wasn't permitted to discuss funding or pending land acquisitions. This much is crystal clear, however: Eastside communities from the Old Fourth Ward, to Ormewood Park and beyond have a lot riding on the trail happening sooner than later.
Logic would suggest that whatever's going on behind the scenes could be troubling. At this point, drawing a direct connection between the increasing delays and the ongoing legal battle between the Beltline, the city and Atlanta Public Schools would be conjecture, so nobody's doing that here. This is an extremely complex construction project through the heart of urban neighborhoods, on the bed of an ancient rail line. It's not an easy job. But it's not exactly like tunneling a freeway, either.
The potential timeline was already a rather lengthy one for Reynolds- and Cabbagetownians eager to walk, jog or ride on actual concrete. And now the Eastside Trail extension's outlook is beginning to shift from "near future" territory to "sometime before 2020," hypothetically speaking. The Beltline folks said in October that, once final plans were approved, the project would be bid out and would take at least 15 to 18 months to complete, once ground is broken. Tack on the land acquisition phase, and who knows when this baby will crank up.
In other news, Merry Christmas!
— By Curbed Atlanta contributor Tyler Estep