Community Input Sought at Clifton Corridor MARTA Workshop

By Margarita Delapaz for the North Druid Hills/Briarcliff Patch

The Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative Project continues to be worked out in partnership with MARTA. As part of a requirement to receive federal funding, an analysis was presented to the community for input.
Residents gathered at the Torah Day School of Atlanta Wednesday night to express concerns and get clarification on the proposed Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative project.
The project is a partnership with MARTA and the Clifton Corridor Transit Management Association which would bring new transportation options linking the Centers for Disease Control, Emory University and DeKalb Medical to Atlanta’s regional mass transit system.
After a brief introduction, participants were asked to go around the displays asking questions, examining their options and voicing their opinions about the project.
Jeremy Freeman said he lives off Lenox Circle where he fears a light rail may be the choice for the area behind his house.
“First and foremost they should be talking to residents because they’re concerned and don’t know what’s happening in their neighborhood,” he said.
There are three proposed options with different track locations. Heavy rail operates underground like current MARTA trains. Bus rapid transit would operate similar to the design of express buses in New York City. Designated lanes, high speeds and pre-paid fare speed up the process. Finally, the option Freeman fears, a light rail, would operate similar to a streetcar, above ground.
“They’re not telling you that this has to be 100 feet from CSX lines,” Freeman said.
Because CSX owns and operates freight trains along the existing tracks in the neighborhood, the proposed rail transit option may not use those same lines. In addition, new rail lines may not even be in close proximity to existing lines per federal regulations. This distance may mean the difference between having a train in your backyard or not.
Business owner John Cyphers said the proposal would have a train on top of his business which he feels would affect traffic flow.
“They’re going to take over my property,” he said.
After clarification and further examination of the proposal, it was shown that plans actually hope to utilize heavy rail in the option. This would mean an underground alternative that would not cut through Cyphers’ lot.
This discussion was the ultimate goal of the meeting, said Jason Morgan, a regional planner for MARTA.
“Those that live next to CSX are worried about their property and those a couple of blocks away are worried about access,” Morgan said.
Although the project would not break ground for at least six years, the ultimate goal of the analysis is to get comment and feedback for route options.
“This is Stage 1,” he said. “We don’t know the kind of technology yet or how to position the stations.”
If all goes as planned, Morgan said the lines may be available to commuters as early as eight years from now.

Peachtree Creek South-Forkers Get Their Sling Blade On

Volunteers improve a path along the South Fork of Peachtree Creek to create a walking trail and connect green spaces of Atlanta.
By Margaret Landers | Buckhead Patch
The unceasing whizz of traffic echoed from beyond the bend in the creek, competing with the chirping melodies of birds in the tops of the maples. Two Canadian geese paddled along the creek water, now brown and thick with mud from the recent rains. The scent of honeysuckle lifted in the air, only to be quickly suppressed by putrid sewage fumes leaking up from their pipes underground.
On Wednesday, about 20 volunteers — armed with sling blades, chainsaws, clippers, cutters and Prosecutor solution — trekked through the overgrown trail alongside Peachtree Creek to fight for the life of the waterway and clear a path so the public can enjoy it.
Sally Sears of the South Fork Conservancy, which is heading up the project, commanded the troops from the trailhead, on the cul de sac of Armand Road. Machete Man Jeremy Dahl was there, armed with multiple machetes and a well-versed knowledge of forest sustainability. Professionals came from Jackson Spalding as part of the firm’s “Day in the Field” initiative. Other crew leaders came from the Conservancy, Olmsted Linear Park Alliance, and Peachtree Hills. 
Volunteer Dave Kaufman knows the trail and the creek well; he canoed it in the ’90s, and wrote a book, “Peachtree Creek ,” highlighting the watershed and its need for preservation. “Peachtree Creek is a well-kept secret in general,” he said. “I’d hate to see it just getting paved.”
The team’s efforts focused on clearing an open walking trail, hopefully suitable for buggies to roll upon, cutting down invasive plants from the forest, and building a culvert of stones to bridge the path across a minor trench. Sears’ vision is a safe and beautiful place for the Atlanta community to share and enjoy. She said, “This is for the mamas, the grandmamas, the babies…” She called Peachtree Creek a neglected treasure. “People have loved this creek for a long time,” she said.
Lindridge Martin Manor resident Bob Scott often walks the trail with his dogs. This spring the weeds have overgrown much of the remaining path. “Mother nature has taken over,” he said. Scott spent the first half of the afternoon hacking away at weeds and vines to clear the footpath near the trailhead. “It’s a lot tougher going than we thought,” he said, wiping sweat from his forehead.
Dahl knows the science behind the degradation of the forest. He said the biggest threat to a forest is insularization, or dividing a forest into pieces separated by urban development. “We (biology conservationists) call it the eternal external threat,” he said, “Divide, divide, divide.” Dahl explained that when a forest’s size is cut by dividers, the amount of plant and animal species in each forest section decreases exponentially, leading to extinction. But when forests are connected, the species growth is “fantastic.” The process is called the species area effect. “My aim is to connect up the forest,” he said. Dahl recognized the importance of upkeeping the health of Peachtree Creek. “The biological corridors are our streams.”
Sears recognized the proximity of Atlanta’s existing parks along Peachtree Creek, and she’s working with the conservancy and community supporters to make the connection. The project will encompass about two miles of trails, leading from the entrance behind the Cedar Chase condominiums off Lindbergh Drive, under Ga. 400 and I-85, to the confluence of the north and south forks of the creek.
One section of the path leads directly underneath 400 and 85, into a den of jumbled rock, spray-paint artistry and abodes of the homeless. Kaufman called the space a “cathedral of potential” for the future green pathway. He said it could be a sculpture garden or a skate park.
Sears said the project is gaining momentum and public awareness as the conservancy recei es modest grants and neighborhood support. Morningside Elementary School has provided support, as well as the Kendeda Fund and the MillionMile Greenway. Kaufman said completion of the project is a matter of manpower and money. “So far, so good,” he said

DeKalb groups: EPA’s sewer mandate is weak

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The federal Environment Protection Agency’s mandate for DeKalb County to improve its sewer system is a “slap on the wrist” with little oversight and weak penalties, DeKalb residents said.
On Wednesday, six DeKalb environmental groups asked the EPA to issue stricter penalties for DeKalb’s continued sewage spills, hoping added pressure from the EPA would guarantee speedier clean up of affected rivers and streams.
In December, the EPA issued a consent decree, mandating DeKalb upgrade its sewer system after reporting more than 800 raw sewage spills in five years. The decree, which DeKalb spent 14 months negotiating with the federal government, also includes a $453,000 fine for the spills and an additional $600,000 to clean up the South River, Snapfinger Creek and the South Fork on Peachtree Creek near Emory University.
Since then, the county commission has authorized $1.35 billion in upgrades to its sewer system, which will be paid for by increases in residents’ water and sewer bills.
However, the county has not announced any timeline or clean-up plans for the spills, which continue to occur daily, residents said.
“My concern is that taxpayers are having to foot that huge bill in increased water rates. I feel there needs to be more accountability,” said Gil Turman, president of the South DeKalb Neighborhood Coalition. “We’re in this because of a lack of accountability. For 20 years, the county has been negligent and having sewage spills so regularly. And now they just get a slap on the wrist.”
Turman’s coalition, along with the DeKalb Soil and Water Conservation District, the Miners Creek Circle Civic Association, the Metropolitan Atlanta Urban Watershed Institute, the Newly Organized Citizens Requesting Aquifer Protection and the South River Watershed Alliance, submitted a 12-page letter Wednesday to the federal government demanding stricter oversight. Wednesday was the deadline for the public comment period.
A spokeswoman for the EPA said her agency and the U.S. Department of Justice will evaluate all of the comments and then make a decision as to whether to issue tougher penalties.
Ted Rhinehart, DeKalb’s deputy chief operating officer for infrastructure, said the county had not reviewed the residents’ comments, but said DeKalb believes the decree is “fair, reasonable and in the public interest.”
Federal law allows the EPA to charge the county up to $37,500 a day for spills, but the decree only says fines of up to $500 can be charged per spill.
“It doesn’t seem like they would have much incentive if they are not complying,” GreenLaw attorney David Deganian told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Greenlaw, an Atlanta-based environmental legal group, drafted the residents’ letter.
Residents said they worry DeKalb could end up like Atlanta, which signed a consent decree in 1998 committing to $4 billion in water upgrades, but has been given several extensions.
“This is a problem that has gone on for decades. As we have learned from the City of Atlanta, there are no simple solutions and significant oversight is very important,” said Justine Thompson, GreenLaw’s executive director. “We don’t think there are adequate assurances that the consent order terms will be met.”
DeKalb officials said they have been trying to avoid the high costs and legal battles that plagued Atlanta by moving forward with the work.

I-85/Ga. 400 Interchange Could Ease Traffic

Proposed I-85/Ga. 400 Interchange
Metro Atlanta commuters could get some relief as the Georgia Department of Transportation is in the early planning stages of building a new interchange connecting Georgia 400 southbound to Interstate 85 northbound and I-85 southbound to Georgia 400 northbound. 

“It is definitely the most anticipated (project) in a while,” Georgia DOT Deputy Press Secretary Jill Goldberg told Channel 2 Action News reporter Richard Elliot. “We’ve had more people wanting this done since the road was originally built.” 
Georgia 400 from I-85 north to I-285 was completed in the early 1990s at a cost of $180 million, not adjusted for inflation. Goldberg said there wasn’t enough money budgeted to connect Ga. 400 to I-85, except the southbound lanes. Since then, commuters have had to negotiate Sidney Marcus Boulevard, the Buford-Spring Connector, Lenox Road and Cheshire Bridge Road if they wanted to go between the two major thoroughfares. 
Now, Goldberg said, the state sold $40 million in bonds to pay for the new interchange project. She told Elliot the bonds will be repaid in seven years using money collected from the Ga. 400 toll. 
On Friday, the Georgia DOT issued Requests For Qualifications. That’s the process where interested construction companies submit their qualifications to build the project. After the DOT selects qualified companies, the DOT will ask those companies for bids on the project. 
Many Buckhead neighborhoods have supported the plan for years and pushed the DOT to begin construction. One northeast Atlanta neighborhood, however, did not. Residents of the Lindridge-Martins Manor neighborhood opposed the plan because it directly affects their area. One of the proposed ramps would go along Peachtree Creek, and their properties. 
“We were worried about this for a long time,” said resident Art Schoeck. His property would be in the shadow of the proposed flyover ramp. “Encroachment has always been an issue, and so when we’re going to be encroached upon, we’d like it to be in a positive way.” 
Schoeck and other residents said they changed their opinion of the project when the DOT agreed to build a landscaped walking trail along Peachtree Creek once the project is completed. The DOT worked with the neighborhood association and the Southfork Conservancy on the project and plan to hook it into a series of trails that winds through that area. 
“When we looked at the manner in which they were going to do this with a trail and landscaping and the fencing, if they do what they say they’re going to do, it looks like it’s going to have a positive impact on the neighborhood,” said Schoeck. 
Commuters seemed to like the idea since many do not appreciate navigating their way from I-85 to Ga. 400 on a daily basis. 
“I think it’s absolutely great,” said Catalina Decastillo. “It’s going to make it convenient especially for the people who live around this area. So, whoever thought of that is very smart. It’s about time.” 
The winning construction company will also design the interchange. The DOT hopes to have the project completed in 2013.

RFP issued for Ga. 400/I-85 interchange

Atlanta Business Chronicle – by Dave Williams , Staff Writer

Date: Monday, January 17, 2011, 1:22pm EST – Last Modified: Monday, January 17, 2011, 2:03pm EST

An on-ramp from Interstate 85 South onto Ga. 400 North took one small step closer to becoming reality.
The Georgia Department of Transportation put out a request-for proposal on Jan. 14 for design-build services for the proposed project. Applicants have until 2 p.m. on Feb. 11 to make their proposals.
The existing interchange, which opened in the early 1990s, doesn’t give southbound motorists heading into Atlanta on either highway a direct connection to the northbound lanes of the other road. The project to connect the two has been talked about for years. And business leaders in Buckhead have long complained that failing to complete that portion of the interchange hampers access to offices and retail centers in Buckhead.
The State Transportation Board and the State Road and Tollway Authority voted last September to continue charging tolls on Ga. 400 to pay for the interchange improvements.
The tolls had been due to expire this summer when the original bonds from the early 1990s will be paid off.
Keeping the tolls is expected to raise $50 million, about $40 million of which will be used for the 400/I-85 interchange. The other $10 million in additional toll revenue will go toward 10 other smaller projects along the 400 corridor

Read more: RFP issued for Ga. 400/I-85 interchange | Atlanta Business Chronicle

Find a park along South Fork

Use this map link to find a park near you along the South Fork of Peachtree Creek:

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?hl=en&ie=UTF8&source=embed&msa=0&msid=216162315370426453646.0004951ad1910d8473018&ll=33.801118,-84.319382&spn=0.107127,0.2635&t=h&z=13

Results of Environmental Protection Agency Testing

Join us for a meeting convened by DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader at a public meeting to discuss the results of the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent testing for contaminants in the county parkland at Zonolite and the South Fork of Peachtree Creek.
Neighbors and groups interested in trail building and public garden planning are invited.
Hear what we can hope for the restoration of this important floodplain in the South Fork Watershed.
Speakers:
Dr. Francis Kung’U, head of DeKalb County Watershed Department
Terry Stilman, EPA on-site coordinator
Jeff Rader, DeKalb County Commissioner
7-8 PM Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010
Westminster Presbyterian Church
1438 Sheridan Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30324
 For more details, Debbie Schneider in Jeff Rader’s office at dkschneider@dekalbcountyga.gov.

2010 Taste & Tour of Cheshire Bridge Road

 

 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Yuki Takahara
Fax: 404-874-7897

Phone: 678.777.7833

E-mail: yuki@tourofcheshirebridge.com
Website: www.tourofcheshirebridge.com
TASTE & TOUR OF CHESHIRE BRIDGE 2010
A Weekend of Sensory Exploration on Atlanta’s Quirkiest Little Road
The upscale, family-friendly businesses of Cheshire Bridge Road are working together to bring you the 2nd annual Taste & Tour of Cheshire Bridge. Some of Atlanta’s top restaurants will offer tastings while other retail stores will offer raffles and discounts. Ticket sales from this year’s event will benefit the Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition or LLCC and the Blueprints plan to beautify the Lindbergh LaVista Corridor area.
Atlanta, GA, September 11-12 – The Taste & Tour of Cheshire Bridge will operate Saturday September 11 and Sunday September 12. Tastings, tours, will be offered from 12 noon to 5 PM with a gathering after 5 PM at Cheshire Pointe with local musicians, artist and information booths on civic associations, nature conservancies, park services and public service groups. Recommended lots for parking are on Liddell Drive, Faulkner Road, and 1893 Piedmont Road (back parking lot of Nakato Japanese Restaurant). Trolley service will be available with a history tour of the colorful street. Tickets will be sold online at www.lindberghlavista.org and participating store locations. Ticket prices are $20 each for the entire weekend. Many of the Cheshire Bridge businesses will be offering different samples, tastings, and giveaways for each day of the event.
Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition, a non-profit organization for promoting the safety and progress of the business nodes along the corridor as well as creating a blueprint for sustainable and progressive neighborhood planning. 
Many of the participating businesses have called Cheshire Bridge Road their home for decades while others have recently joined the eclectic Cheshire Bridge mix. Participating businesses include but are not limited to Alfredo’s, Antiques and Beyond, Bamboo Luau, Java Blues, The Colonnade, Costumes Etc., Flora Dora, Las Margaritas, Nakato Japanese Restaurant, Nino’s, Taco Cabana, Habersham Gardens, Johnny’s Pizza, Return to Eden, Roxx Tavern, Rusto’s Pizza, Ursula’s Cooking School, Sheik’s Burritos n’ Kabobs, Woodfire Grill and Rhodes Bakery. 
If you would like more information on this event, the participants, or if you would like to schedule an interview with any of the participants, please e-mail yuki@tourofcheshirebridge.com.
Visit www.lindberghlavista.org for more information on the community blueprint.

The Voyager on Peachtree Creek

David R. Kaufman’s journey down Atlanta’s forgotten waterway
This report was prepared by Ken Edelstein, with assistance from Joeff Davis, Samantha Simon and Tammy Vinson. Online production by Alejandro Leal.
John Wesley Powell had the Colorado. Lewis and Clark explored the Missouri. For Henry Morton Stanley, it was the Nile.
David R. Kaufman set his sights a bit more modestly. Since he moved to Atlanta as a kid in 1971, Kaufman wanted to uncover the mysteries of Peachtree Creek, a neglected stream that drains the northern half of Atlanta.
Now he’s completed his voyage of discovery. Throughout the 1990s – sometimes with a friend, most often alone – Kaufman descended the North and South forks of Peachtree Creek, as well as some of its tributaries.
What he found by canoe and on foot, and what he recorded with a 4-by-5 camera, was a stream whose rich history and natural beauty has largely been pushed aside by roads, buildings, garbage, pollution – by a city that turned its back on what could be a magnificent resource. Yet remnants of that history and beauty remain. 
Kaufman shares his journey in a book, Peachtree Creek: A Natural and Unnatural History of Atlanta’s Watershed (University of Georgia Press, 2007).
Here are some photos and excerpts. 
Next

LLCC Community Garden at Zonolite Park

Sally Sears
Sally Sears, South Fork Conservancy
By Sally Sears, South Fork Conservancy
Federal inspectors combed the land at DeKalb’s Zonolite Park, Wednesday, March 24, 2010, where LLCC hopes to build a community garden. The lead investigator, Leonardo Ceron, told me they are looking for asbestos clinging to the dirt in the flood plain – particles which, if airborne, could cause significant health problems.
The land on the South Fork of Peachtree Creek was an industrial site for decades. Extensive testing in the years of county ownership since 1988 led to asbestos removal in equipment and buildings there. Now Environmental Protection Agency scientists are looking for contamination lingering in the dirt. Test results from 40 sites along the creek and behind the railroad spur are expected by the end of June. If enough hazardous asbestos is found, Mr. Ceron said federal Superfund dollars could be used to clean the site. That could allow the garden project to move forward.
Community Garden supporters are encouraged that the testing could resolve final questions about the safety of the dirt at Zonolite Park. More information on the EPA website at http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/verm.html