Before 1899, railway freight cars were transferred in the heart of downtown Atlanta. That year, a charter for a new Atlanta Belt Railway Company was announced. The new company would connect the city’s rail lines to circle the entire city, making it possible to manage freight cars on the outskirts of Atlanta. The line was completed in 1902.
A century later, the belt line was largely abandoned. In 1999, a master’s thesis by a Georgia Tech student proposed that the line be developed as a multiuse trail for hiking, biking, and streetcar travel. The idea was taken up by city council president Cathy Woolard, mayor Shirley Franklin, and other prominent Atlantans.
The Atlanta BeltLine is expected to connect 45 neighborhoods and provide “last mile” connectivity for regional transportation. The project includes the following:
- 33 miles of multiuse trails
- 22 miles of pedestrian-friendly rail transit
- 1,300 acres of parks, including expansion of 4 existing parks and the creation of 9 new ones
- 5,600 acres of affordable housing
- 1,100 acres of remediated brownfields
- Public art and historic preservation
In 2013, Mott MacDonald was retained by the Atlanta Beltline, Inc. to provide design engineering for the rail transit portion of the project. Mott MacDonald will provide design engineering to support the environmental impact analysis of three rail corridors: BeltLine East (5.4 miles), Streetcar Extensions (1.8 miles), and Crosstown Connector (4 miles).
According to the Atlanta BeltLine website, the project is “the most comprehensive transportation and economic development effort ever undertaken in the City of Atlanta and among the largest, most wide-ranging urban redevelopment programs currently underway in the United States.”
With links to MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) and transit services from outlying communities, “the transit component of the Atlanta BeltLine is critical for long-term transportation initiatives benefiting everyone in the entire metro Atlanta region and beyond.”