Although some elements critical to the Atlanta BeltLine Inc. project are developing well, such as the creation of parks and walking trails, one critical area, funding for its transit piece, is not.
“Although the MARTA board has agreed to fund a couple of pieces of the actual transit portion of this project, it is going to be a while before we complete the route and right-of-way acquisitions needed to move ahead,” said District 3 Fulton County Commissioner Lee Morris, the board of commissioners’ representative on the BeltLine board.
Born from Georgia Tech grad student Ryan Gravel’s thesis idea in 1999, the BeltLine is a 22-mile ring of abandoned railroad lines that have been converted to multiuse trails and encircle the city.
With countless residents using the trails and developments popping up along them, it has revolutionized the city’s and the nation’s thinking on transportation.
During the commission’s Oct. 16 recess meeting at Assembly Hall in downtown Atlanta, Morris distributed to each commissioner a status report on the BeltLine from its CEO, Clyde Higgs. Although no one from the BeltLine actually addressed the commission, Higgs’ report gave a rundown on how the project was progressing.
“We have seen a real surge in development as the property on which the BeltLine would be constructed has become hot property,” Morris said. “People want to live on the Beltline and young people want to live on or near it for the trails they can either hike or bike on, in addition to enjoying the parks.”
One other positive development regarding the BeltLine is there seem to be more businesses wanting to move into that area to be closer to the BeltLine, Morris said.
However, he said the project is lagging behind on the construction of affordable housing in the area, which is another goal of the BeltLine.
District 2 Commissioner Bob Ellis represents part of north Fulton, which does not include the BeltLine, but he said the project is important to the city of Atlanta and, by extension, the county.
“The entire issue of when will transit be running on the BeltLine in any form is so central to the idea of creating the BeltLine, it is something that needs to be in a better line of sight as to when it starts,” he said.”For this project to realize its designated potential, you have got to have things happening.”
Morris said the greatest disappointment remains the transit element. In addition to funding, some of the areas where there were supposed to be abandoned railroad lines or tracks are actually not abandoned at all but are still being used.