The concept of a Beltline transit and pedestrian corridor encircling intown Atlanta is officially 20 years old this year.
The most ardent supporters of the former component—transit—worry it’ll be another two decades before the first stretch of Beltline light-rail tracks is actually laid, given what they call sluggishness on the part of city leaders.
To call attention to the issue and “bureaucratic deadlines that will determine who gets federal funding for transit,” the transit advocacy group Beltline Rail Now is planning a march on the Beltline itself the afternoon of October 6.
It’s the latest grassroots rally calling for changes to city infrastructure in a year that’s seen rolling bike protests during rush hours on DeKalb Avenue and a human bike lane in Midtown in the wake of e-scooter tragedies.
“We believe that what our leaders decide in the coming few months is still malleable, and we’re fighting to see the priorities include a full build of rail on the Beltline by 2030,” Beltline Rail Now cochair Matthew Rao said in an announcement today. “Waiting [until] 2050 for a partial build is simply unacceptable.”
March organizers contend that Beltline rail was a top selling point for a transit tax that voters overwhelmingly supported in 2016, but has since been pushed aside “for a grab-bag of special-interest projects” that do little to accommodate thousands of new Atlanta residents per year seeking Beltline proximity.
Added another Beltline Rail Now cochair, Patty Durand: “Now three years later, we see that city leaders are shortchanging the transit portion of the Beltline in favor of other projects that aren’t widely embraced and certainly aren’t transformative or ambitious. Is that the best Atlanta can do? We don’t think so.”
Back in October, MARTA’s board unanimously approved a new project list that’s expected to dedicate more than $570 million of the aforementioned tax money to lining 15 miles of Beltline with rail. That’s a signifiant jump from the seven miles of Beltline transit outlined in an earlier plan, but few physical signs of progress have been made.
The march is expected to begin at 2 p.m. Sunday, October 6 at Historic Fourth Ward Park’s skatepark and end 90 minutes later at Irwin Street.
Of course, organizers urge any potential marcher to take MARTA, by first checking the MARTA app or itsmarta.com.
New Beltline designer named
In what could be related news, Beltline officials today announced the appointment of a new leader tasked with designing every type of Beltline component and bringing it all to fruition.
Kimberley Wilson, R.A., has been named vice president of Atlanta Beltline design and construction, following a tenure at Georgia Tech.
Wilson stepped into the role earlier this month and is now charged with leading design and construction project delivery teams through the planning of transit, parks, streetscapes, and forthcoming Beltline trails, per ABI officials.
Wilson, a registered architect who holds a master’s degree in construction management, most recently served as Georgia Tech’s associate director of construction services, leading capital projects on campus.
Across a 20-year career with the school and private firms, Wilson’s had a hand in notable projects across Atlanta, including Tech’s Living Building, restorations of the Georgia State Capital and Ebenezer Baptist church, and mixed-use developments such as the MARTA Lindbergh TOD and North Highland Steel.
Beltline officials added this personal note in a press release:
“As a longtime and current resident of intown Atlanta neighborhoods, Wilson is passionate about the Atlanta Beltline and the opportunities it offers to bring our city together with improved connectivity, new transportation options, low-income housing development, the elimination of food deserts, and equitable access to parks.”
Beltline CEO Clyde A. Higgs praised Wilson’s “wealth of knowledge and experience” in joining his team.