Most Atlanta residents are beginning to realize that the Atlanta BeltLine represents more than just a concrete trail. Its influence spreads beyond the 22-mile corridor and reaches the city core, as well as the larger metro region. Just as mobility and economic development are key components to the program, so are quality streetscapes, making it safer and easier to get around on foot and bicycle. Some of the 45 miles of planned streetscape work will be completed as a component of transit construction, and some, like the Ponce de Leon improvements, are the result of coordination between multiple agencies and funding sources.
The “road diet” that has manifested on Ponce de Leon is a result of the first phase of a more comprehensive plan to improve the Ponce de Leon corridor in the northeast quadrant of the city. Road diets eliminate at least one lane of motor vehicle traffic and replace it with a bike lane. This first phase included milling and resurfacing of the road, along with the bicycle lanes that you now see between Monroe Drive and Freedom Parkway. The Georgia Department of Transportation implemented this part of the project, and will continue with improvements to ADA-accessible ramps at intersections ahead of the Atlanta BeltLine’s work in the next phase. Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.’s improvements to this corridor, scheduled to begin construction in 2017, received funding from a Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) grant. The LCI grant is helping to pay for sidewalks improvements, planting strips, increased lightings, buffered bike lanes, and vertical connections to the Eastside Trail.
The Atlanta BeltLine’s Strategic Implementation Plan lays out streetscape improvement projects that are based on the 2005 Redevelopment Plan (more on that at beltline.org). The Redevelopment Plan’s strategy for streetscape and pedestrian improvements places emphasis on major corridors, prioritizing those close to proposed transit stops. Secondary streets that link to the Atlanta BeltLine corridor will also see sidewalk and crosswalk improvements to promote pedestrian use between these corridors. Among the major arteries that have planned improvements are North Avenue, Monroe Drive, Metropolitan Parkway, and Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard, to name a few.
The Transportation and Services Agreement that Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. and the City of Atlanta entered into in 2013 not only benefits the advancement of transit projects in the City’s overall system plan, but also allows ABI to move forward more efficiently on streetscapes coordinated with the City’s Department of Planning and Public Works. Still, many of the streetscape projects may be implemented as part of private developments, as the city continues to warm to complete streets and other bicycle improvements (see our column in Feb/ Mar.15 issue for more on that). Other streetscape projects will continue to be implemented along with the Atlanta BeltLine’s parks and trails projects.
The infrastructure bond that passed with an overwhelming majority last month could add tremendous speed to the advancement of streetscape projects all around Atlanta. Nearly $34 million in potential complete streets projects have been identified, and include DeKalb Avenue, Howell Mill Road, and University Avenue. Work accomplished with funding from the infrastructure bond may complement or advance future projects already planned within the scope of the Atlanta BeltLine.