Part of BeltLine Northwest Trail’s Buckhead routes have ‘issues’; new alternative released for public input

Part of the Atlanta BeltLine Northwest Trail’s proposed routes through Buckhead have run into “issues” and “challenges” that have caused planners to propose a new alternative and extend a comment period through Jan. 31.

The BeltLine is the 22-mile loop of trails, transit and green space being constructed around the city by Atlanta Beltline Inc. The Northwest Trail segment would run roughly 4 miles between the Huff Road/Westside Park area and the Northeast Trail, another segment on the drawing boards that would connect in Peachtree Hills.

ABI its partner, the PATH Foundation, have been studying the feasibility of several alternative routes for the Northwest Trail: four for connecting the Westside to Atlanta Memorial Park on partly overlapping routes, and two for connecting Memorial Park and the Northeast Trail. A public comment period about those options was to end last month with an eye on a preferred route, or “alignment,” being revealed in February.

But planners have run into problems with the proposed routes between the park and Peachtree Hills, according to a Jan. 20 email circulated by Nathan Soldat, ABI’s community engagement manager.

A map show alternative routes of the Northwest Trail between Atlanta Memorial Park and Peachtree Hills. Corridors 5 and 6 are proving troublesome and Corridor 7 is the new alternative. This map was circulated by an Atlanta BeltLine Inc. official to seek public input.

The two original options are called “Corridor 5” and “Corridor 6.” Corridor 5 would run along Peachtree Creek and cross Peachtree Road beneath an existing bridge. Corridor 6 would run along Bennett Street and Peachtree Park Drive, crossing Peachtree Road beneath another existing bridge by following a railroad line. Both options dovetail at Peachtree Creek and follow it toward the future Northeast Trail.

Soldat’s email said that planners are “seriously considering concerns and issues raised regarding Corridor 5,” but did not specify what those concerns and issues are. Comments on an interactive map indicate concerns with flooding, tree loss, effects on the adjacent E. Rivers Elementary School property and general residential privacy.

As for Corridor 6, Soldat wrote, it “may also pose significant challenges due to grade changes created by the ridge at Peachtree Road, as well as the possibility that CSX railroad may not allow the trail to pass under the Peachtree Road bridge within their right of way.”

The new alternative is called Corridor 7. Its location is similar to Corridor 5, but largely on the opposite side of Peachtree Creek, and with a middle section that would run along Peachtree Memorial Drive and Peachtree Road before passing under the creek’s bridge. Like the previous options, it would continue along the creek to the Northeast Trail area.

Corridor 7 has been added to ABI’s interactive comment map online. Hours after Soldat’s email, the new alternative had several comments: a couple in favor, and several opposed.

The ABI website also has extended the deadline of an online survey about the Northwest Trail through Jan. 31.

The new option and extended deadline could mean the next community meeting about preferred routes will be delayed to March to allow evaluation time, according to an ABI spokesperson.

Still in a preliminary study phase is the light-rail transit portion of the BeltLine, which likely would run on at least partly different routes that the trail elements in the dense and complicated Buckhead area.

For more about the BeltLine, see ABI’s website.

Update: This story has been updated with ABI information on the possible next community meeting timeline.