Parks and Parking Lots

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What’s the latest BeltLine news? Will this thing ever happen?

The ballyhooed BeltLine is supposed to create or involve 1,300 acres of parks, thirty-three miles of trails, twenty-two miles of transit, 30,000 new jobs, 1,100 acres of environmental cleanup, affordable housing, historic preservation, and public art. (No word on whether it will also help govern prudently or assist the Hawks in getting to the playoffs.)

“We’ve faced obstacles since day one, including the economic downturn,” says Ethan Davidson, the BeltLine’s director of communications. “But the project has continued to push forward more quickly than people realize.” To wit: Forty-eight percent of the BeltLine corridor for transit and trails has been secured, including a coveted three-and-a-half-mile section in the southwest bordering West End. That doesn’t mean the entire project is half done, of course. It means that “a transition has been made from planning and advocacy into design and construction.” In other words, you can actually touch what was once a pipe dream.

Two and a half miles of the West End Trail, which includes Rose Circle and Gordon-White parks, are open for walking or biking. A mural called West End Remembers, by Georgia artist Malaika Favorite (with the help of Brown Middle School students), is finished and viewable under the Lawton Street Bridge overpass. Construction has also begun on the Atlanta Memorial Trail connecting Tanyard Creek Park and Bobby Jones Golf Course, to be completed by this spring.

More will come soon: In the first quarter of 2010, seven miles of hiking trails will be finished or under construction and three parks (including Fourth Ward and D.L. Stanton parks) will be in final construction. MARTA will have completed its environmental impact statement, regarding its possible operation of a transit element, by summer. (Organizers still plan to add twenty-two miles of light rail connected to the existing MARTA system and the potential Peachtree Streetcar.) An additional private investment of $1.5 billion will help create 8,400 new residential units and more than a million square feet of retail space along the path. (Hurdles still exist, though; development plans for the segment at Tenth Street and Monroe, for example, were rejected by the neighborhood last fall.)

All told, eight miles of the corridor will be open for use by mid-2010. “People are already starting to use the trails,” says Davidson, “especially in the northeast. The more we can give people now, the more excited they’re going to be moving forward.” Are you excited yet? If not, you have time: The $2.8 billion project might take twenty-five years.

My favorite economy parking lot at the airport was “closed” recently, even though the airport’s website said it was open before I left home. How did that happen so quickly?

“Rarely do all of our more than 30,000 parking spaces fill up simultaneously,” quips John Kennedy, public relations manager for Hartsfield-Jackson. But occasionally, individual lots do fill. Did you call 877-ATL-PARK or tune in to 830 AM on the way to the airport? If not, get in the habit. Kennedy, who pays close attention to the statuses of the airport’s eleven lots—among them three park-and-ride areas at $9 a day, three economy lots at $10, and two daily-rate lots at $14—suggests doing so. (Tip: Economy fills before dailies, which are full before the 8,000 park-and-ride spaces.)

Vehicles are counted as they enter and exit the parking booths, and this information is immediately transmitted to the airport’s website (atlanta-airport.com) and radio frequency. But just as “on time” may mean ten minutes late, “closed” does not always mean full. Lots are closed before they fill up to account for “the natural filling of spaces by vehicles close to the airport,” says Kennedy. Sidenote: A one-way MARTA fare costs two bucks.

Illustration by Edwin Fotheringham

Got an Atlanta question? E-mail Charles Bethea at askcharles@atlantamag.emmis.com

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