By Hannah E. Jones
In the next two years, over 80 percent of the Atlanta BeltLine will be complete or under construction. As a step in that direction, on Friday, Aug. 4, local officials broke ground on a portion of the BeltLine that is instrumental in tying together Midtown, Virginia Highland and Morningside.
Northeast Trail Segment 1 is a .9-mile stretch that will connect Segment 2 (complete this fall) and the Eastside Trail. Segment 1 will run from Monroe Dr. to Westminster Dr. and, once complete, the Northeast Trail will go from Monroe Dr. to the MARTA Lindbergh Station.
Segment 1 is short but crucial, offering an alternative to Monroe Dr. by instead traveling through Piedmont Park. There have been calls to improve the Monroe and 10th intersection since 2016 when Alexia Hyneman, a freshman at Grady High School, was fatally hit while riding her bike. The BeltLine team is partnering with ATLDOT to complete pedestrian safety improvements at the intersection. There was a moment of silence for Hyneman during the program.
To that end, the BeltLine will ultimately offer safer routes for students, parents and teachers at 20 Atlanta schools. Currently, 4.6 miles of the BeltLine are under construction.
The groundbreaking ceremony was held along the currently gravel pathway, with a spectacular view of the skyline. The program included local leaders like Mayor Andre Dickens, BeltLine President and CEO Clyde Higgs, Councilmember Alex Wan, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Justin Cutler, Piedmont Park Conservancy CEO Mark Banta, ATLDOT Commissioner Solomon Caviness and others.
“This is what makes Atlanta a group project,” Dickens said. “This is a big day for Atlanta and Atlantans. We’re moving closer to making a complete BeltLine a reality.”
He continued: “I live on the Westside of town, and being able to go to Washington Park and ride a bicycle, or exhaustingly jog, all the way over to Piedmont Park — people are going to see that soon. Think about the dream of the BeltLine, a decade or so ago, and now it’s coming to fruition.”
Construction is expected to take about 14 months, followed by landscaping. The construction contractor is Reeves Young, and trail design and engineering was done by Heath and Lineback.
Throughout the ceremony, there was an excitement in the air about connecting two of Atlanta’s greatest prizes.
“Why is the BeltLine so important to us? Because it does one of the same things that Piedmont Park does — it connects people, it’s a gathering place,” Banta said. “It’s going to be a very, very special place as these two things come together.”
Click through the gallery below for snapshots of the groundbreaking ceremony. Photos by Kelly Jordan.