The Atlanta Beltline project isn’t going away. Project staff want to make that clear. Sure, last week, Atlanta turned down — by a wide margin — a major transportation spending package that would have awarded $600 million to the Beltline project. But this project – an innovative transit and trails corridor that will circle Atlanta’s central city — has seen big setbacks before, says Ethan Davidson, the Beltline’s spokesman.
For roughly five years, Atlanta Beltline, Inc., the group charged with moving the project forward, has been collecting revenues from a special tax district that was conceived as the primary funding source. And the vision for an “emerald necklace” for urban Atlanta, first envisioned by a Georgia Tech grad student, is already starting to be realized, Davidson says.
Using revenues from the special tax district, plus money borrowed against future revenues, the group has already secured much of the right-of-way for the rail corridor: roughly 10 miles. In addition, 11 miles of trails, out of the planned 33, have been constructed, and many of them are open to the public. Between the tax revenues, bonding, a handful of government grants and some assorted private donations, more than $337 million has been raised.
True, that amount is shy of the $427 million they had hoped to raise by this time, said Davidson, but not bad considering the housing market crash that took place in the intervening years.
In addition to trail development, the Atlanta Beltline group is currently focused on establishing the right land use conditions for walkable, transit-oriented development, Davidson said. The Beltline group has plans to build some 4,500 affordable housing units around the corridor. About 120 of those have been built or are under construction.