Rails-to-Trails Gains Steam With $5M For Atlanta BeltLine

Atlanta BeltLine Trail (Beltline.org/Christopher T. Martin)

Sustainable redevelopment strikes again! The Atlanta BeltLine, one of nation’s largest, widest-ranging urban redevelopment programs, will develop the Westside Trail. Plans call for a three-mile-long, 14-foot-wide concrete multi-use path in the BeltLine’s southwest corridor. As well as a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant from the US Department of Transportation, which is covering 42% of the project cost, the trail has just received a $5 million grant from The James M. Cox Foundation.

Proposed Westside Trail section of the Atlanta BeltLine (beltline.org)The Westside Trail will connect four schools and four parks.  Area residents and visitors will enjoy 40 acres of new green space, populated by hundreds of native trees. Planners have incorporated 14 points of entry, and 11 of these will be ADA-accessible. Lighting, security cameras, and mile markers have all been budgeted as well. Construction will begin in the latter half of this year, and it is expected to take about 18 months.

Says Cox Enterprises Chairman Jim Kennedy:

“Across the nation, cities are promoting healthy lifestyles through public access to parks and trails, while also stimulating economic development. The Atlanta BeltLine is one of the nation’s best examples of what can happen when public and private sectors work together…. The BeltLine’s completed segments [the Eastside Trail, Northside Trail, Southwest Connector Trail, and West End Trail, which support local art installations, outdoor recreational groups, and neighborhood festivals] are transforming neighborhoods and connecting people with nature. This grant will help the BeltLine build another important segment on its journey to completion.”

Atlanta’s BeltLine will eventually connect 45 intown neighborhoods and network public parks, multi-use trails, and transit along a historic 22-mile railroad corridor.

Kasim Reed, mayor of the city, points out the project’s remarkable return on investment:

“The success and impact of the Atlanta BeltLine is a story of national significance with a three to one ROI to date. The EPA has been a critical partner in our efforts and we are grateful for their partnership and the support of President Obama’s administration.”

Earlier this year, the BeltLine project won the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Overall Excellence Award for Smart Growth Achievement, the highest national honor bestowed by the EPA. The award recognizes creative, sustainable initiatives that help protect the health and environment of our communities while strengthening local economies.

 Interim Westside Trail section of the Atlanta BeltLineEPA Regional Administrator Heather McTeer Toney comments that “the Atlanta BeltLine has become a national model for smart growth by turning what was once an abandoned rail corridor into a vibrant community space where healthy living is encouraged, culture is cultivated, the environment is better protected and economic development is taking place.”

And just several weeks ago (May 21, 2014), at its world conference on building humanity, the International Real Estate Federation recognized the Atlanta BeltLine as the best environmental rehabilitation project in the world.

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