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PATH Foundation lands $6M to help close gap between Silver Comet, downtown Atlanta

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Vision calls for making an extended Silver Comet the longest paved trail in the United States

A trail for bikes and pedestrians surrounded by woods with yellow stripes in between.
A serene stretch of the Silver Comet Trail today.
Silver Comet Map

The PATH Foundation has operated in metro Atlanta for about 27 years, completing more than 280 miles of trails (along with some 80 bridges) to boost recreational and commuting options and position Atlanta as a leader, officials say, among America’s bike-trail cities.

But to reach a goal of finishing 300 miles of trails by PATH’s 30th anniversary in 2021, the nonprofit needed help.

That’s come by way of PATH’s largest private donor since its inception, the James M. Cox Foundation, which announced today a $6 million grant that will go toward the “Mile 300” campaign.

A main focus of the campaign is to link the Silver Comet Trail—one of PATH’s most used and well-known greenways—directly to downtown Atlanta and its growing system of paths and protected bike lanes.

An extension of the Silver Comet into the city, officials say, would also be a crucial link from downtown to Beltline segments on the Westside and the future Westside Park at Bellwood Quarry.

As is, the Silver Comet spans almost 95 miles from Anniston, Ala., to northwest Atlanta. The planned addition of roughly 10 miles would make it the United States’s longest paved trail, according to PATH Foundation and Cox reps.

Cox Enterprises chairman Jim Kennedy, who’s heading the “Mile 300” campaign, applauded PATH trails for making “Atlanta a better place for everyone to live,” in that they “improve our quality of life, encourage healthy lifestyles, and get people outside connecting with each other and our city,” per a press release.

In March, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners approved an agreement with the PATH Foundation and CSX Transportation to conduct engineering studies before connecting the path to the Chattahoochee River and the City of Atlanta beyond.

Construction was scheduled at the time to launch in 2020, with PATH expected to foot 80 percent of the bill and Cobb County the rest. The county’s DOT is expected to partner with PATH on redesigns of the former CSX rail corridor.

To access downtown Atlanta and the broader web of intown trails, the Silver Comet would link with what’s being called the Westside Beltline Connector.

Clearing of that corridor, neighborhood meetings, and design efforts have been ongoing in recent months. Officials told Curbed Atlanta in June an initial section that begins near Georgia World Congress Center is expected to open next spring.