- This article is about the future Belt Line rapid transit line for Atlanta. For other uses see Beltline (disambiguation).
The Belt Line (or sometimes Beltline) is a proposed street car or light rail line around the core of Atlanta. Using existing rail track easements, it aims to improve not only transportation, but to add green space and promote redevelopment.
originated with a 1999 masters degree thesis
by Georgia Tech student
Ryan Gravel, who founded the non-profit
Friends of the Belt Line and currently works for the city of Atlanta's planning department. Frustrated with the lack of transportation alternatives in Atlanta, Gravel and two of his colleagues, Mark Arnold and Sarah Edgens, summarized his thesis in 2000 and mailed copies to two dozen influential Atlantans. Cathy Woolard, then the city council representative for district six, was an early supporter of the concept. Woolard, Gravel, Arnold, and Edgens spent the next several months promoting the idea of the Belt Line to neighborhood groups, the PATH foundation
, and Atlanta business leaders. Supported by Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin
, previous city council president Cathy Woolard
, and many others in Atlanta's large business community
, the idea grew rapidly during 2003 and 2004.
The railroad tracks and right-of-way are owned mostly by CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern, and the Georgia Department of Transportation. Developer Wayne Mason has purchased most of the NS portion, in anticipation of the Belt Line.
The total length will be 22 miles (35 km), running about 3 miles (5 km) on either side of Atlanta's elongated downtown. It is planned to include a neighborhood-serving transit system (likely streetcars), footpaths for non-motorized traffic, including bicycling, rollerskating, and walking and the redevolpment of some 2,544 acres (10.3 km²). The project (although not the funding for it) is included in the 25-year Mobility 2030 plan by the Atlanta Regional Commission, for improving transit from 2005 to 2030.
The BeltLine plan calls for the creation of a series of parks throughout the city creating what the working plan, The Beltline Emerald Necklace
, calls the thirteen "Beltline Jewels". These would be connected by the trail and transit components of the plan. The Trust for Public Land
first identified areas that would be appropriate for parkland, and spurred the inclusion of the park component in the current plan. The Trust is currently active in acquiring land for the project, which it intends to sell to the city after bonds have been issued from the beltline TAD
The plan would expand these existing parks
and create these new parks
The Beltline would feature a continuous path encircling the central part of the city, generally following the old railroad right of way, but departing from it in several areas along the Northwest portion of the route. The PATH
foundation, which has many years of experience building such trails in the Atlanta area, is an integral partner in the development of this portion of the system.
The original focus of the belt-line thesis was on establishing a light rail
link around the central portion of the city. MARTA
, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, has undertaken an Inner Core Study
to determine the best transit opportunities in the Belt Line area. The study includes the Belt Line proposal, a "C-Loop
" proposal that would rely largely on highway and street right of way, and several other potential alignments to determine an optimal transit proposal. The study is also evaluating different technologies, including Bus Rapid Transit
On Monday, December 11, 2006 the MARTA board approved a staff recommendation that rail be the primary transit element.
While the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority
(which runs the MARTA
system) is excited about the surface-level addition to its existing above-ground and subway
system, GDOT has reservations, as the lines it previously purchased were intended for use as commuter rail
connections. CSX also is concerned, as passenger trains
would have to pass through a major regional railyard
, intermingling with freight
trains and possibly causing issues of delays and potential liability
There are five gaps along the Beltline where rights of way do not connect and thus create larger challenges to the project.
- Armour — Near the Lindbergh Center MARTA station, bisected by two active rail lines. Solving this would involve transit sharing the rail right-of-way and splitting off the trail where Clear Creek joins Peachtree Creek, following Clear Creek around the Armour warehouse properties then tunneling under the active rail lines and I-85 to the Ansley Golf Course then rejoining the Belt Line.
- CSX Hulsey Yard — Near the Inman Park/Reynoldstown MARTA station. A workaround for the trail is to utilize the existing tunnel at Krog Street.
- Bill Kennedy Way (also known variously as the Glenwood-Memorial Connector and the Glenwood-Wylie Connector) — a bridge spanning I-20 between Ormewood Park and Reynoldstown. The proposed fix here is to widen the bridge enough to support trail, transit and motor traffic.
- Washington Park to Simpson Rd — near the Ashby MARTA station. Proposals include a span over the MARTA tracks or possibly share the right of way.
- Bankhead — The largest gap is near Maddox Park and unfortunately involves one of the busiest rail corridors in the state. Proposals include 1) taking the trail east to cross under Hollowell Blvd; 2) diverting through Mead property at Marietta Blvd; or 3) sharing the road with Lowery (formerly Ashby St)
The first development of the Belt Line began when the Atlanta & West Point Railroad
began building a five mile (8 km) connecting rail line from its northern terminus at Oakland City
to Hulsey Yard
on the Georgia Railroad
(basically the southeast quarter of the completed Belt Line). The surveys were done and initial construction had begun when the courts ordered a halt in May 1899 as that work did not fall under the A&WP's charter. In September of that year a more ambitious charter for an Atlanta Belt Railway Company was announced that would circle the entire city connecting all rail lines so that freight car transfers could occur on the outskirts rather than downtown. The initial charter was to encompass no more than 30 miles (48 km) and named only perimeter points Howell and Clifton Stations. Since Clifton was in DeKalb County
both it and Fulton were named in the charter. After surveys of the route and right of way acquisitions, the DeKalb portion was ditched leaving the entire route in Fulton County
. The entire line was completed by 1902.
- 1999 Ryan Gravel's thesis
- 2004 Trust for Public Land publishes Alexander Garvin-written Emerald Necklace proposal
- July — Beltline Partnership formed
- November 7 — city council approves TAD and Redevelopment Area (14-3)
- December 12 — Atlanta school board unanimously approves TAD
- December 21 — Fulton County Commission approves TAD(5-1)
- April 19 — Fulton County Commission approves (5-2) sale of Bellwood Quarry for Westside Park
- September 21 — developer Wayne Mason who owns the 5 mile (8 km) northeast segment (from DeKalb Ave up through Ansley Park) withdraws his rezoning applications from the city. Mason, a suburban land speculator, had purchased the railroad right of way from Norfolk Southern in 2004. Rather than preserving the property as a greenway and transit corridor, Mason proposed a deal with the city whereby he would give a portion of his land in exchange for the right to develop the remainder to extremely high densities. The most controversial component of his plan was a proposal to build 38- and 39-story condominiums on the eastern edge of Piedmont Park, in an area currently dominated by historic single family homes. Mason's proposal galvanized the adjacent neighborhoods to organize, forming the Beltline Neighbors Coalition. Despite paid lobbying on Mason's behalf by such heavyweights as former Governor Roy Barnes, in the end the city held firm with the original intention of preserving the corridor as transit and greenspace.
- December 11 — After soliciting comments from the public, MARTA recommends rail service (including either modern streetcar or light rail technology) for the corridor, even though bus rapid transit technology would have possible lower capital costs.
- June 13 — city of Atlanta purchases over 21 acres near Grant Park for part of the "jewel" called Boulevard Crossing in the Emerald Necklace study.
- August 7 — Atlanta Beltline Inc acquires the first section of the corridor. In partnership with Ben Raney and Barry Real Estate Companies, ABI announces the purchases of the NE section of beltline from developers Wayne and Keith Mason.
- November 12 — $8 million allocated to purchase land where North Avenue crosses the Beltline for a 16 acre park (which can later be expanded to 35 acres)
- Feb. 23 — 150 people attended a community groundbreaking for the West End (Atlanta) trail at Rose Circle Park.
- GDOT approval of the following Belt Line multi-use path projects
- AR-450A $20 million (35% federal dollars) 2007 (includes $17 million for ROW)
- AR-450B Bicycle/pedestrian 2008 $19 million (58% federal)
- AR-450B Bicycle/pedestrian 2020 $15 million (100% city of Atlanta)