Southwest Connector Trail

Bicyclists ride the Southwest Connector Trail at the grand opening ceremony.
Photo Credit: Kwadwo Atta

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The Atlanta BeltLine

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A Transformation to Share with the World

The Atlanta BeltLine represents an extraordinary opportunity for the City of Atlanta. City leaders the world over spend decades seeking ways to upgrade infrastructure, improve housing opportunities, revolutionize transportation services, promote new job growth, and bring communities together. A success story in any one of these areas is worthy of accolades. The Atlanta BeltLine accomplishes every one of these elements, and as the project takes shape, it will provide a blueprint for urban renewal that will be envied and followed by cities across the country and around the world. There are similar projects in other cities that share this vision of a positive transformation, and some examples are included below.

The High Line project transformed a historic elevated rail line into a 1.45-mile linear park, featuring walking paths, natural plantings, and public art installations. The elevated structure begins from Gansevoort Street to West 34th Street on Manhattan’s West Side. The project began in 1999 when residents advocated for the preservation and transformation of the abandoned rail line. The High Line is owned by the City of New York and supported by the Department of Parks & Recreation as well as the Friends of the Hihg Line organization. Learn more
From the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, the city of Paris successfully converted the 19th-century elevated Viaduc Daumesnil, in the 12th Arrondissement, near the Bastille, into a pedestrian walkway called the Promenade Plantée. Rail traffic had stopped on the viaduct in 1969. The 3-mile linear park, designed by Philippe Mathieu and Jacques Vergely, is lavishly planted and offers stairs and elevators for access. Retail spaces, designed by Patrick Berger, were created in the spaces under the masonry arches supporting the structure. The project as a whole helped revitalize the surrounding neighborhood, inspiring new residents and businesses to come to the area. Learn more
Reading Railroad commuter trains used this 4.7-acre, mile-long viaduct, near the center of downtown Philadelphia, to enter Reading Terminal, at 12th and Market St. Built in 1890, the viaduct is a combination of embankment sections bridged by steel structures and arched masonry bridges. Service stopped on the viaduct in 1984, when an underground commuter tunnel replaced the viaduct. Today grasses and trees have overtaken the viaduct’s four elevated tracks. In 2003, residents of the surrounding neighborhood formed the Reading Viaduct Project, with the goal of transforming the viaduct to an elevated walkway in conjunction with the redevelopment of their neighborhood. Learn more
The Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail (FBT), formed in 2003, is a grassroots, community organization working to convert the underutilized Bloomingdale freight railroad embankment into an elevated, mixed-use greenway. The park proposed for Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail would stretch three miles across the city’s Northwest Side, linking the Chicago River with the city’s boulevard and transit systems, parks, and several vibrant commercial districts. In 2004, the City developed concept plans for the trail. In addition, the City has funded and is currently executing environmental assessments. FBT is currently working with the Chicago Architecture Foundation and several other partners to mount an open design competition. Learn more
The Los Angeles River Revitalization project covers 51 miles of river, 32 of which flow through Los Angeles. The Project began in 2002 when the Los Angeles City Council established a committee to coordinate River-related improvements and projects as well as attract citywide support. The Committee’s River Revitalization Plan creates a framework for the creation of land use guidelines, economic development opportunities for River-adjacent communities, new recreational spaces, habitat protection areas, and storm water management features to help control flooding in the rainy seasons. Learn more
The Midtown Greenway is a 5.5-mile multi-use trial that runs along a former railroad corridor. The trail, which is used by thousands of city residents each year, is open 24 hours a day and even plowed in the winter by the City of Minneapolis. The Greenway’s connection to other trails and paths in and around the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes and Mississippi River make for scenic trip across town, and one that is often quicker than traveling by car. The long-term plan for the Greenway includes a transit service along the trail that plugs into the region’s larger transit system. Learn more
Madrid Rio Park is a massive highway burial project is also creating new parks, public spaces, bike trails and light rail transit. The project began after an approximately 5-mile section of highway alongside the Manzanares River was moved underground, creating a linear park throughout the city. Also as part of this project, 17 walkways were built to help reconnect the neighborhoods and districts along the Madrid Rio that were previously separated by the highway. Learn more