Georgia DOT threatening the Atlanta BeltLine?

What?! This doesn’t make any sense… After the Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. fought Wayne Mason and the sliding economy to purchase the huge northeast corridor of the BeltLine, the Georgia Department of Transportation and AMTRAK are coming out of left field in an attempt to lay claim to the rail line that runs through this section of Atlanta… to put in high speed regional rail lines… through compact residential and commercial areas… This completely undermines the logic and purpose of the much-needed initiatives behind improving Atlanta’s infernal transportation issues…

Here is an email that was sent out earlier today by Elizabeth Coyle (with the BeltLine Network) that I wanted to share with you (you can read Mayor Franklin’s letter here to Congressman John Lewis about this issue):

I am calling a special meeting of the BeltLine Network on this Wednesday, January 28, at 4:30pm at Trees Atlanta, 225 Chester Avenue.  The purpose of this meeting is to discuss and strategize a community response to a threat to BeltLine transit.  I will provide more details as available at the meeting, but to summarize the situation and get right to the point, AMTRAK has begun condemnation proceedings on the NE Corridor of the BeltLine.  This is in response to Norfolk Southern Railroad (NSR), Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. (ABI) and Atlanta Development Authority (ADA) pursuing rail abandonment on the Northeast Corridor (aka the “Decatur Belt”) with the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB), a necessary step to advancing light rail transit in the BeltLine corridor.  Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and AMTRAK have filed Motions to Stay the abandonment proceedings.

Some of you will remember that AMTRAK and GDOT had floated the possibility some years ago of putting heavy freight and high-speed intercity commuter rail in this long-inactive corridor to a proposed multimodal station in downtown Atlanta.  However, the Concept 3 Plan recently adopted by regional leaders on the Transit Planning Board (TPB) and supported by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) calls for the AMTRAK commuter rail line (IF it ever happens) to run along the West side of the City in an existing active heavy rail corridor.  AMTRAK’s action to “preserve its options” could delay BeltLine transit planning indefinitely and if not resolved quickly, will hamper ABI and MARTA’s momentum in this regard.  And quite frankly, GDOT’s failure to stand behind the regional transportation plan, which includes the BeltLine, also threatens the region’s competitiveness for federal transit dollars that are tied to local agreement on priorities.

I am confident there will be overwhelming public opposition to heavy rail in the Northeast Corridor, including in Piedmont Park.  I have copied the impacted NPU chairs and other community leaders on this email for that reason.

The Mayor, ABI, ADA, and MARTA with assistance from ARC are working diligently to resolve this matter with STB, GDOT and AMTRAK, while seeking support from Congressman Lewis, Senator Isakson and Senator Chambliss.  A letter from the Mayor is attached.  On Wednesday, we will discuss ways to  mount a strong community response to this threat.  I’m sure many of you will not wait to contact the Governor’s Office and GDOT to express your support for the Concept 3 Plan and the BeltLine while opposing AMTRAK’s unnecessary actions that threaten both.

Liz Coyle
BeltLine Network, Inc.
1117 St. Charles Place NE, Atlanta, GA 30306

404-895-1613 (cell) | 404-815-0853 (office) | 404-815-1563 (fax)

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