Sierra Club names BeltLine as one of nation’s best transportation projects

By David Pendered

The Sierra Club has named the Atlanta BeltLine as one of the best transportation projects in the country.

The BeltLine was included in the latest report of the national organization’s campaign titled, “Beyond Oil.” The campaign’s goal is to move the United States off oil in 20 years.

The Sierra Club of Georgia was among the earliest supporters of the BeltLine. During the recent campaign for a regional sales tax for transportation, the group opposed the tax – in part – because members thought the tax promoted sprawl and did not provide more money for the types of transportation options represented by the BeltLine.

Mayor Kasm Reed on opening day of the Eastside Trail

Mayor Kasm Reed rides along the BeltLine’s Eastside Trail on opening day, Oct. 15. Credit:

“We should heavily invest our transportation dollars in this kind of forward thinking, 21st century project,” Colleen Kiernan, director of the Georgia chapter, said in a statement announcing the release of the national report.

The BeltLine was included in a report titled: “Smart Choices, Less Traffic: 50 Best and Worst Transportation Projects in the United States.”

In introductory remarks, the report notes that some transportation projects continue a pattern of oil dependence and poor air quality, which is a result of tailpipe exhaust. One example cited in the report is the proposed Outer Beltway around Washington, D.C.

Atlanta’s BeltLine, on the other hand, is held up in the report as a good transportation project:

  • “The Atlanta Beltline, a network of public parks, multi-use trails and transit by repurposing 22-miles of historic railroad corridors circling downtown Atlanta, will help to improve air quality.”

Kiernan described the BeltLine in broad language that invests the project with a lot of hope:

“Transportation infrastructure we build today will be with us for decades. We can and should demand the best use of our transportation dollars,” Kiernan said in the statement.

“The Atlanta BeltLine will give us the choices we need. The 22 miles of light rail and trails will help make getting to work, school, shopping and recreation without a car easier, make walking and biking in our city safer and increase our access to transit.”

The national report goes on to provide this description of the BeltLine:

  • “This project provides a network of public parks, multi-use trails and transit by repurposing 22-miles of historic railroad corridors circling downtown Atlanta and remediating over 1,000 acres of brownfield.
  • “The beltline will reduce air pollution and improve public health through the use of efficient electric transit and attractive pedestrian and bicycle trails.
  • “The project has already resulted in new, denser living and retail development and further economic development is anticipated. Three trail segments connect four newly renovated parks. Additionally, affordable housing has opened along the corridor.
  • “However, much work remains and this comprehensive urban redevelopment effort will take another 20 years to complete. While progress has been made in terms of improvements to parks and some affordable housing developments, the transit line has a long way to go.”


David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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