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Multi-billion dollar Beltline ready for trail openings | News

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Multi-billion dollar Beltline ready for trail openings

ATLANTA -- It's a multi-billion dollar rails-to-trails project that could be coming right through your backyard without you even knowing it.

The Atlanta Beltline has been discussed and dreamed about for years, but now the results are becoming more visible. More than two miles of finished trail way will open this summer. It will run from Piedmont Park back to the old City Hall East building on Ponce and beyond to Inman Park.

The Beltline's railroad infrastructure has been in place since the 1880's, long before highways piled up all around it. That means while most of the rails have been unused for decades, the majority of the bridges are still intact. In theory, a new streetcar system built on the old trail network will easily whisk passengers all around the city. It would then connect the Beltline streetcars into the Downtown streetcars and the MARTA system. The 22-mile railway would also join new and existing parks all over the city.

"It's the way people want to live now, so I think if they make this happen, it could really change the city," said Atlanta native Mark Pendergrast, who was inspired to write a book about the Beltline.

Pendergrast was one of several Beltline fans who signed up for a free tour of the entire project. The nonprofit organization in charge of the project's planning has hired a tour company that's shuttled 13,000 people on the tour since 2007. The prime stop was a closed rock quarry that will eventually be opened as a park large enough to dwarf Piedmont Park.

"Even the Highline in New York is only a mile and a half, and this is 22 miles," said Rob Brawner of the Atlanta Beltine Partnership. "In the other cities they might be doing trails or parks, but nobody's putting it together in such a comprehensive way."

The $3 billion project will get $2 billion from a penny sales tax dedicated to the project. The rest will come from grants, federal funding and $600 million from the TSPLOST transportation vote in July.

For more information on the project you can visit their website. For information on how to sign up for the tours or sponsor them, visit the tour website.