By Mariann Martin, contributor
Atlanta’s 22-mile loop is one mile closer to being finished with the official opening of the Eastside trail extension Friday morning.
Members of the Atlanta BeltLine Inc. the Atlanta Beltline Partnership and numerous government officials joined community leaders to cut a blue ribbon at the southern end of the trail at Kirkwood Avenue.
“This is one small mile, one big step in connecting two previously disconnected railroads,” said Brian McGowan, CEO of ABI, as he welcomed people to the event.
The new section of the trail begins at Irwin Avenue and ends at Kirkwood Avenue, which now makes the Eastside Trail three miles long. The newly opened Westside Trail is also three miles, for a combined total of 6 completed miles for the BeltLine.
The new section contains seven security cameras linked to the Atlanta Police Department. It also has improvements such as a more clearly marked center line.
Although the trail is officially open, it is not yet completed. Two mixed-used projects under construction near Edgewood Avenue create a gap in the trail. A detour takes pedestrians and bikers up a bridge to Edgewood Avenue and along sidewalks to Krog Street Tunnel. At that point, BeltLine users reconnect to the trail. Once construction on those projects is completed, the trail will be completed.
At the ribbon cutting, McGowan promised ABI was already looking ahead to the next part of the extension. Construction on Phase 2 will be open to bid on Nov. 20, he said. That section will complete the Eastside Trail and extend it to Memorial Drive.
During his comments, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed pledged continued support for the trail. He announced the city would put in an additional $60 million in funds to finish the right-of-way acquisition for the entire loop. The announcement was met with cheers and applause from the audience.
“The bottom line is, every where the Atlanta BeltLine goes, the city comes alive and our neighborhoods come alive,” Reed said.