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Beltline trail section ready to open

4:16 PM, Oct 14, 2012   |    comments
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Atlanta, Ga. -- The first major section of the Atlanta Beltline's rails-to-trails project is set to open Monday. Many have already been dodging construction workers to use the trail for months.

"We knew there were liability issues involved, and we tried to be respectful of the construction workers," Atlanta resident Kyle Montgomery said. "But we were so excited about using the Beltline we were jumping the gun a little bit."

That excitement has helped push the Atlanta Beltline through two recent obstacles. The failure of the TSPLOST took away $600 million in extra funding, returning the project to its original timeline. Then an investigation by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed misuse of taxpayer funds by the Beltline's CEO, leading to his removal.

"This is a project that's about cooperation and partnership, and everybody has stepped forward to push the project forward," Beltline communications director Ethan Davidson said.

As the search for the new CEO continues, a little over two miles of paved trail will connect Piedmont Park to Inman Park behind the old City Hall East. There are wires underneath the pavement for future improvements like streetcars and lighting. The streetcars were the primary part of the project affected by the loss of the TSPLOST funding. Their installation will most likely be delayed, but their space will remain alongside the new trail.

"I think it's going to be fantastic to link the city together," said Wade Chumney. "To be able to go to from where we live in Little Five [Points] to catch a concert at Piedmont Park will be amazing."

About half of the $10.5 million spent on the new section came from private donations. The rest came from local tax dollars generated by special districts around the planned Beltline space.

Davidson expects the buzz over the new trail to lead to excitement around finishing the project. On its current timeline, the plan circling the entire city is set to be finished in about 20 years.

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