What’s Up With Trail Under SR-400 & I-85

Love the Bright Orange Road Construction Barrels? You’re in Luck!
February’s weather cost the Georgia DOT contractor two weeks of work on flyover ramps linking Interstate 85  to SR-400. Traffic on Cheshire Bridge Road and Lindbergh Drive will keep dodging construction barrels at least until April.
Loren Bartlett, DOT project manager, says the project continues to move as fast as possible because of financial penalties in the state contract with Archer Western.
“The contract calls for $1869 daily penalties,” she says, noting it was to be complete by January 14, 2014.
What about the two weeks when ice and snow kept Atlanta immobile?
 
The Department will consider inclement weather as
reason to be exempt from daily fines.  The project construction budget is at $21 million. (AW’s contract is $21,423,500 for better accuracy.)
The nature trail along the creek is coming into clearer view as the ramps above are connected. By March 1 contractors laid beds of large stone along the creek, topping it with smaller gravel and compacting them into a smooth trail. The largest bridge across the main span of the North Fork is in place.  Several smaller culverts across feeder creeks will be part of the trail. At least one is poured on site, and others are expected in early March.  Decorative fences and approaches leading to the main bridge are likely to be among the last elements to be built.
Sally Sears 
Executive Director, The South Fork Conservancy

Resident: Don’t Allow Tucker Land Grab for Lakeside City

Plans for Lakeside cityhood are crossing the line, says a local resident.

By Michelle Penkava for North Druid Hills/Briarcliff Patch

You may have heard that some  neighborhoods to our west are trying to form a city. This city, now  designated as Lakeside City, began in Oak Grove. One of the three services  they plan to provide is parks and recreation. Being in need of  green space, they have included a very large portion of Tucker in their proposed  city map in order to acquire Henderson Park. This would also give them  access to some long-established Tucker neighborhoods and additional commercial  properties.
The Lakeside City Alliance would have you  believe that they are moving slowly. In fact, they were expected to “drop a bill” at the Capitol on Thursday, March 7, sponsored by Dunwoody state Sen. Fran  Millar.
This bill is a “placeholder” designed to allow a public  vote on the issue by the fall of 2014 even though they are just now in the  beginning legal stages of forming their city. The map is not set in  stone. But once it is, we outside their boundaries will have no vote  on whether or not they become a city and incorporate parts of Tucker. Our  local politicians and civic leaders have spoken out, asking them to use I-285 as  their boundary. Instead, they are land grabbing large areas of Tucker in  their initial attempt, stating that there are no obvious boundaries of  Tucker.
The state of Georgia district maps, including Millar’s  district map, clearly designate Tucker as a “census place,” and show our  boundaries beginning at 285 with just a slight dip inside the perimeter to  Henderson Mill Road.
As you know, the climate in DeKalb  is tenuous at best. We are all frustrated with the state of the county  school system and exhausted by the antics of the now-suspended DeKalb County Board of  Education members. Many citizens are further frustrated by the DeKalb  government as a whole. It is in this climate that the Lakeside city  proponents are able to accelerate what should be a well thought out plan that  considers long-term implications to all communities. Instead, they are  considering only their needs and are dissecting Tucker with no regard and little  communication with our communities.
While the Georgia constitution  prevents the formation of new school districts, the City of Dunwoody is seeking  an amendment to the constitution that would allow them to pull out of the DeKalb  County School System. Most consider it a long shot at best as it requires  support from the entire state. The Lakeside city planners state that  their plan has nothing to do with schools. However, if by chance  Dunwoody is successful, Lakeside city could follow. Their proposed  Lakeside City map selects Midvale and Livsey (not the neighborhoods on our side  of Chamblee-Tucker Road) but specifically excludes Pleasantdale Elementary, which is  currently a feeder school to Lakeside High School and is north of the Tucker  boundary.
Millar’s email  address is listed below along with contact information for our local  legislators. Please share your thoughts with all of them. It is  important for Tucker residents to be “on the record.” Also below are  the links to the proposed Lakeside city map and Millar’s district  map.

Penkava wrote this letter to her neighbors, and it was distributed to Patch.

Legislators To Discuss ‘City of DeKalb’

By Ralph Ellis for Virginia Highland/Druid Hills Patch
Some people want to create a city out of DeKalb County’s unincorporated communities.
State senators from DeKalb County will meet this week to talk about possibly forming a “City of DeKalb.”
The meeting will be held at 10 a.m. Nov. 29 in room 450 at the State Capitol, CrossroadNews.com reported.
A City of DeKalb has been talked about for decades but the idea has gained new urgency because more cities are forming in DeKalb County, like Brookhaven. Those cities reduce the county government’s property tax revenue.
Here’s what some county officials said in the CrossRoads.com article:

  • County Commissioner Jeff Rader: “What  would be the main street and common interest. We won’t lose  the county government. We will gain another layer of government.”
  • Commissioner Lee May: “It  is not just about preserving revenue, but comprehensive planning for  the county as a whole.”
  • Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton: “The  entire county planned and put investments in infrastructure and then  for a small group to take it without compensation for the county is not  fair. … We can’t let a few people destroy one of the best counties.”

Areas to be tested for lead

By  Bo Emerson
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Environmental Protection Agency will test for toxic lead residue in Morningside and other Atlanta neighborhoods surrounding a former lead-smelting factory, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.
At 740 Lambert Drive N.E., near Cheshire Bridge and Piedmont, the Metalico Evans factory processed 5,000 tons of lead a year from 1935 until the mid-1990s. Until 1977, it operated without air pollution control devices.
The factory was replaced by a cement plant in 2003. Bulldozers leveled the buildings and scraped away the soil before the cement company took ownership.
But for several decades lead dust would have left the factory chimneys to drift over the thousands of residences in the nearby Lindbergh, Cheshire Bridge and Morningside neighborhoods.
Lead is a neurotoxin that accumulates in the body and can cause brain damage, reduced intelligence, developmental problems, stunted growth, seizures and death. Lead dust can drift three to five miles from a factory source.
Inquiries about the defunct factory from a reporter at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2009 led to an EPA assessment of the risks posed by fallout and runoff. This month, USA Today published the results of a yearlong investigation into hundreds of similar “ghost factories” around the country, mentioning three Atlanta facilities.
The EPA’s assessment and a subsequent analysis, completed in March, caused enough concern to warrant the additional soil tests, EPA officials said. At the Lambert Drive site, the EPA found soil with lead concentrations above the 400 parts-per-million considered safe by the agency, but no sampling was done outside the boundaries of the factory site.
The preliminary analysis “assumes a release [of lead dust] exists,” EPA Region 4 spokesman James Pinkney said in a written statement. Pinkney said the EPA is developing a plan to sample the soil in residential yards around the former factory, and the soil of waterways that drain the area. That sampling will begin this summer, he said.
The EPA declined requests for a phone interview to discuss in greater detail the potential for contamination and the history of the agency’s actions to safeguard residents.
The agency has not yet alerted residents of neighborhoods around the plant about any potential hazard in their soil. Several told the AJC they were unaware that a lead factory ever existed nearby.
“Nobody’s mentioned it,” said Dot Marrinson, 91, who has lived in Morningside since 1963.
Rich Sussman, a retired National Parks Service executive, who’s lived and gardened in the area since 1974, said he had no inkling there was a smelting factory less than a mile from his house. “I never knew it was there.”
There were at least two other sites in Atlanta where lead apparently was processed, both owned by the Miller Metal Co. One was in a spot now occupied by the Williams Street exit from the Downtown Connector. The other was in an area on downtown’s Decatur Street that became the Grady Homes housing project, owned by the Atlanta Housing Authority.
When the apartments at Grady Homes were slated for demolition in 2006 to make way for redevelopment, the EPA suggested that the housing authority conduct further testing at the property.
The AHA removed a few thousand tons of contaminated soil in 2008, before transforming the area into a mixed-use apartment community called Ashley at Auburn Pointe, according to AHA spokesman Rick White.
When it settles to the ground, lead tends to bind with bare soil, according to Marsha Black, associate professor in environmental health science at the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health. It poses a special danger to growing children who might play in the dirt and then put dirty hands or dirty toys in their mouths.
Local and federal environmental officials “should have done a lot more in the last few years” to inform residents about the area’s history, said Colleen Kiernan, director of the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club. “If credible evidence demonstrates that people are at risk, there should be some path toward addressing the problem,” she said.
Based on its investigation to date, the EPA has raised concerns about possible waterborne lead contamination. The Lambert Drive property drains into the south fork of Peachtree Creek, and from there into the Chattahoochee River. Lead dust that washed off the property would have ended up in the creek sediment, and possibly been ingested by any of the dozens of fish species that live there.
The EPA’s report pointed out that fishermen catch many of those fish, and that some anglers consume what they catch.
Sussman also sometimes makes a supper from his backyard bounty of radishes, lettuce, carrots, beets and basil. A Master Gardener, he’s had his soil tested many times — for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. But not for lead.
He never thought it necessary.
He still doubts there’s any need. But he’d like to know.
Staff writer Craig Schneider contributed to this article.
 

Public Meeting About Nature Trail Set for April 10

By Sally Sears
A plan to link two  major nature preserves in Virginia-Highland and Morningside is gaining momentum in the neighborhood.
The South Fork Conservancy and  Park Pride are leading discussions about a trail along the south fork of  Peachtree Creek connecting Morningside Nature Preserve and Herbert  Taylor-Daniel Johnson Nature Preserve.
The first public meeting scheduled for Tuesday, April 10 at 6 p.m. at Haygood  Methodist Church could demonstrate some of the benefits and challenges  of creating more greenspace with easy access to walkers, joggers and  perhaps bikers.
Creek  cleanups and trail building are expected later in the spring.
Here’s  what one avid creek paddler found on a cleanup downstream from Cheshire  Bridge Road.
From Richard Grove, Georgia Kayaker:
There are good river days and there are great river days. Today was a great one. Today  after 9.5 hours, 25 more tires were removed along with 3 shopping  carts, some carpet, a picnic table umbrella, 3 golf balls, mirror,  fishing reel, vehicle tail light lens, sleeping bag, trash can lid, PVC  pipe, wire, metal stud, shoes, shirts, roof shingles, safety fence, silt  fence, fire extinguisher, lots of aluminum cans, plastic bags &  bottles, a disposable razor. Still looking for a toothbrush. The pile is  huge. Next work day will be from Cheshire Bridge Road.
I have  never removed a Herbie trash container or a shopping cart from the  river. I thought the Herbie was a bear to get out but nothing compared  to the shopping carts which took more than an hour to dig each one out.
One  day next week I will cut up the tree in the river across from the trash  pile area which will make the river look much better from that view  point.
I see and hear people walking the trail when I am in the  river working but the only chance I get to talk to anyone is when I’m  either starting or finishing and at my truck.. When I was cleaning in  the area of the trash pile several people came to the riverbank to say,  hello. Sunday I met a couple who walk the trail several times a week.
A  year from now there will probably be less trash in the river but more  on the trail. Fact-of-life, Americans are pigs. Where they go so come  their trash.
Sally Sears is the Executive Director of the South Fork Conservancy,  a nonprofit that seeks to restore, conserve and protect the Riparian systems of the South Fork of Peachtree Creek Watershed. Follow South Fork on Facebook. Learn more on their website.

Residents to get say on Brookhaven at Capitol

By  April Hunt
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Both opponents and supporters of carving a new city out of north-central DeKalb County will argue time is on their side when residents get their say for two hours under the Gold Dome on Tuesday.
A state House committee that must recommend whether the Legislature allows a vote this year on Brookhaven is holding its first of two hearings, to get general input on the idea.
Supporters, who want lower property taxes, will argue that the time is right for a vote this summer. Opponents, including those who have signed petitions against Brookhaven, are expected to ask for more time to thoroughly vet the city.
“Regardless of viewpoint, I want to ensure the process is open and allows for every viewpoint to be presented,” said Government Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming.
Members of the cityhood advocacy group, Brookhaven Yes, think they will have no trouble convincing their neighbors to vote for more local control.
Group president J. Max Davis II, an attorney and namesake son of a late conservative state representative who touted that he never voted for a tax increase, said many DeKalb residents already feel the county is too bloated.
Those in Brookhaven want to reinforce that idea by voting for cityhood, he said. But the first goal is convincing lawmakers to allow the July 31 referendum.
“Our motto is ‘better services, lower taxes,’ but before we can discuss why we think we can do a better job of spending our money than the county, we have to get the right to vote,” Davis said.
The DeKalb County government, meanwhile, is officially lobbying for any vote to be delayed, so that more time could be spent studying what losing Brookhaven would mean for county coffers.
The county lost $20 million in revenue when Dunwoody incorporated in 2008, and Brookhaven is expected to cost the county at least $22 million, according to county estimates.
More than 500 residents have signed petitions also asking to slow down a process they believe has been rushed. A group formally opposing the city, called Ashford Neighbors, circulated the petitions.
Eddie Ehlert is among the Ashford Park residents who plans to call for a delay, though he would prefer the idea be killed altogether.
Ehlert said there hasn’t been enough transparency about one goal he sees for the city: to undermine county control of a 63-acre tract of hardwoods just across Clairmont Road from the DeKalb-Peachtree Airport.
The land is now a runway protection zone owned by the Federal Aviation Administration and county, shielding residents from noise and fumes from airplanes in the area. Ehlert, who is political chairman of the Sierra Club Georiga, worries that developers supporting Brookhaven actually want that land for a big project.
“We cannot possibly support a police department without needing more taxable land, but there hasn’t been any notion that we’re going to leave that property alone,” he said. “There hasn’t been enough time to really look into that.”
Creating DeKalb’s second new city, and the sixth in the metro area since 2005, was first raised in the last days of the Legislature last year. State rep. Mike Jacobs, a Republican who represents the area, said he filed a bill for the city after hearing from residents who wanted a local, not county, government.
A study by University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute for Government released in November concluded Brookhaven could provide services comparable to those provided by DeKalb, with no tax increase.
Even residents who liked the idea of a new city complained, though, that the study called for the same 6.39 mills that residents there now pay for county special district services.
Earlier this year, Jacobs revised the proposal for Brookhaven. He lowered the tax rate to 3.35 mills – or about the same rate residents paid before the county raised taxes last year.
“By rolling that back, we are able to deliver a property tax decrease from DeKalb’s tax increase and still end with a projected $261,000 surplus,” Jacobs said of the proposed $25 million budget for the city of about 50,000 people.
Whether the timing works remains to be seen. The hearing at 3 p.m. Tuesday in room 341 of the state Capitol.

Atlanta’s quality of life to improve if we transform our ‘red fields’ into ‘green fields’

By VAL PETERSON, first lady of Georgia Tech for SaportaReport.com
Since coming to the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2009, one thing I have learned is that the City of Atlanta has truly benefitted from projects created by our students, faculty and alumni.  From our skyline to Atlantic Station to the Beltline, Atlanta would be a very different place without Georgia Tech.
A new project is being proposed by Mike Messner, a 1976 Civil Engineering graduate who grew up in Atlanta and still cares deeply about our city. In Mike’s mind there is far too much non-productive real estate and not enough green space in Atlanta.
Thus, in 2009, Mike and his wife, Jenny — through their family foundation: the Speedwell Foundation — created and funded a program to bring more green space to urban areas. They call it “Red Fields to Green Fields.”
A “red field” is a property that is deeply in the “red” financially. These properties can ruin neighborhoods. Today there are an estimated 27,000 “red” properties in metro Atlanta. They can become hangouts for criminals. They can become a blight to surrounding neighborhoods.
Regardless of how hard homeowners work to keep their houses looking decent, an abandoned house or vacant strip mall in the neighborhood drags down everyone’s property values.
Messner’s solution is to turn “Red Fields” into “Green Fields,” knocking down financially distressed real estate and replacing it with “green fields”—creating parks and green space.
Kevin Caravati, a senior research scientist at Georgia Tech, and his team are employing this approach and working to make this vision a reality.
Trees, plants and flowers are filters. They clean the air and cool cities in the summer; and they help with storm runoff and flooding.
Parks help to build community. They make people feel calm, boosting spirits and adding beauty to our neighborhoods. Being in nature can ease the symptoms of depression.
Parks and greenways also make surrounding property values climb. Knock down an unused building and the surrounding property values go up, sometimes up to 200 to 400 percent, researchers have discovered.
The Atlanta Beltline, another former Georgia Tech student’s class project, is one example of Red Fields to Green Fields.
Atlanta was originally a railroad town. Today, there are 22 miles of historic rails that are being pulled up, creating linear parks, playgrounds and bike trails.
Community gardens could also be built on these spaces. A partnership between the Atlanta Beltline, the PATH Foundation (which builds bicycle and walking trails) and Georgia Tech’s “Red Fields to Green Fields” research program to create a citywide initiative should be explored.
When you compare park land in Atlanta with park land in other similar cities, Atlanta ranks near the bottom of metropolitan cities nationally. Only 4.6 percent of Atlanta is parks. We can do a lot better than that, and “Red Fields to Green Fields” can help.
The initiative can help in other ways as well.
Georgia has had more bank failures (70) than any other state due to this economic recession. Many banks that lent aggressively during the housing boom suffered when the bubble burst. The commercial real estate business was growing, but was stopped in its tracks by the downturn—and the economic engine stopped as well. Let’s knock down the Red Fields and get them off the ailing banks’ books.“Red Fields to Green Fields” can help create jobs in Atlanta—jobs to help locate and process purchasing of the land, conducting environmental impact studies where needed, employment for park construction, jobs recycling old building materials and positions for the maintenance and operation of the resulting parks.
These are all real jobs that can be created here and stay here. Messner has proposed that cities form land banks. They would create parks and greenways until the economy improves and we can start building again and add properties to the tax rolls.
US financial institutions have lost over $70 billion in assets since 2007.  If the federal government can loan money at near zero interest rates to banks, why not form a land bank, a public/private partnership to invest in these properties?
The federal dollars could go straight to the land bank to buy properties at the current, discounted rates. This would remove these properties from the banks’ rolls and help to clear bad debt, so they can have resources to lend again. This would lead to the creation of parks and green spaces and elevate property values of adjacent neighborhoods.
Setting aside a small amount of the purchased land to build on and sell would generate funds to help sustain the “Red Fields to Green Fields” initiative in Atlanta.
Caravati and Messner have met with individuals from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; U.S. Sen. Johnny Isaacson; the Metro Atlanta Chamber; the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Treasury, and Interior; and the White House. Additional meetings are being planned.
And it is my hope that they meet with First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been a proponent of eliminating childhood obesity through her “Let’s Move” campaign. Parks can help kids to be healthy—particularly the one in three who are overweight—by helping them to become more active.
Building the necessary partnerships and consensus for a citywide “Red Fields to Green Fields” initiative is similar to problems faced in solving Atlanta’s transportation issues.
We will vote next year on whether to have a penny tax allocated to T-SPLOST, dedicating resources to improve transportation in metro Atlanta. There are so many small entities involved that it was impossible to discuss this and come up with a solution until the state legislature got involved. A list of potential projects was drafted by a roundtable of local leaders.
Let’s take the same approach with a “Red Fields to Green Fields” initiative for Atlanta. Such an initiative can make all of Atlanta a better place to live and raise families.

Georgia Conservancy Event: Trail Clean-up at Peachtree Creek Nov., 20th

Next Sunday, November 20th at 9am, Generation Green and South Fork  Conservancy will partner to clean-up trails, build benches and plant trees at  Peachtree Creek in Atlanta. The trail clean-up area is located near the  intersection of Lindbergh Drive and Armand Road. Volunteers are asked to  register for this event, to wear boots and bring gloves.
Generation Green is a program of  the Georgia Conservancy creating “exciting and inclusive” opportunities for  future generations of environmental leaders who will protect Georgia’s  environment. The program uses educational opportunities, social events,  adventure trips and service projects as mediums of engagement.
South Fork Conservancy is a  volunteer organization of neighbors and businesses with an aim at sustaining  Atlanta’s creeks and quality of life.  The organization is the beginning  part of an initiative aimed at restoring, and repairing Peachtree Creek to its  “rightful place in the forefront of the region’s natural resources.”
For directions, and registration information for this event, click here.
Continue reading on Examiner.com Georgia Conservancy Event: Trail Clean-up at Peachtree Creek Nov., 20th – Atlanta healthy living | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/healthy-living-in-atlanta/georgia-conservancy-event-trail-clean-up-at-peachtree-creek-nov-20th#ixzz1dcaWxTe7
Continue reading on Examiner.com Georgia Conservancy Event: Trail Clean-up at Peachtree Creek Nov., 20th – Atlanta healthy living | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/healthy-living-in-atlanta/georgia-conservancy-event-trail-clean-up-at-peachtree-creek-nov-20th#ixzz1dcaPKAJg

Report: Atlanta region ranked as the worst metro area for seniors’ access to transit

By Maria Saporta for www.saportareport.com

The Transportation for America, a coalition that promotes smarter transportation investment, has ranked Atlanta as the worst metro area in providing seniors access to mass transit.
Such a ranking is especially devastating for metro Atlanta — a region that is projecting a dramatic increase in senior citizens.
The report — “Aging in Place, Stuck without Options” — determined that the majority of the nation’s metro areas with a population of more than 1 million people provided seniors with poor access to transit.
The number of senior citizens with poor access to transit will continue to grow as the baby boom generation continues to get older.
“While some aging baby boomers and empty nesters have been moving from suburbs to downtowns, the vast majority of older Americans continue to reside in car-dependent suburban and rural communities,” the report stated.
“Inevitably, their ability to navigate these communities by vehicle will diminish or disappear over time, and millions of older adults will need transportation alternatives in order to maintain their independence,” the report continued.
The Urban Land Institute, in its Urban Land publication, reported on the Transportation for America’s ranking and determined that was a wide variation of metro areas providing seniors with access to transit.
The study defined seniors as people aged 65 to 79. And poor access was defined people having fewer than two bus, rail or ferry routes within walking distance of their home.
“Not surprisingly, the metros offering the best transit access for seniors are typically larger, coastal metropolises with larger transit systems, such as New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.,” the report stated.
“The worst metropolitan areas for seniors’ transit mobility tend to be more inland, with stagnant or shrinking bus systems,” the report continued. “Interestingly, the 11 worst metros include several places with rail systems, such as Atlanta, Charlotte, and Nashville, suggesting their systems may be too small.”
The finding of this report comes at a particularly significant time for metro Atlanta. Currently, the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable is considering a draft list of transportation projects that would be implemented if voters approve a one-cent regional sales tax next year.
The draft project list would invest 55 percent of the revenue in transit projects and 45 percent in road projects.
The Urban Land Institute said that the metro areas that rank the worst for seniors’ access to transit offers an opportunity for its members and real estate professionals. It stated that those metro areas could be “ripe” for senior housing projects that are part of a transit-oriented development with bus or rail stops.
The 11 worst metro areas for seniors’ having access to transit are:
1.     Atlanta. In 2015, it is projected that the region will have 503,543 people between the ages of 65 to 79. Ninety percent of that population would have “poor transit access” in 2015.
2.     Kansas City. Senior population in 2015: 230,023 with 88 percent with poor transit access.
3.     Oklahoma City. senior population: 136,571; poor transit access: 86 percent.
4.     Nashville. senior population: 151,995; poor transit access: 85 percent.
5.     Raleigh-Durham. senior population: 127,931; poor transit access: 80 percent.
6.     Indianapolis. 181,073; 79 percent.
7.     Charlotte. 170,815; 79 percent  (a tie).
8.     Jacksonville. 127,958; 77 percent.
9.     Virginia Beach-Norfolk. 147,285; 69 percent.
10. Rochester.  116,565; 69  percent (a tie).
11.  Riverside-San Bernardino.  278,305; 69 percent (a tie)

Clifton Corridor Residents Worry About Compensation, Quality of Life

By Eden Landow for Virginia-Highland/Druid Hills Patch
Neighborhood groups involved in planning for a MARTA expansion through the Clifton Corridor say residents are worried they might not be adequately compensated for their property or that the right-of-way would extend virtually to their doorsteps and harm their quality of life.

Planning consultant Heather Alhadeff, who has been hired by Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition Inc. to aid in the communication process, discusses the proposals with LLCC board member Rosalie Townsend, former LLCC president Henry Batten and NPU-F chairwoman and LLCC transportation coordinator Jane Rawlings. Credit Eden Landow

The public got another chance Wednesday night to comment on a proposed $1 billion project to expand MARTA rail through the  Clifton corridor and link Lindbergh Center with Emory, the CDC, Decatur  and Avondale.
The latest configuration proposes heavy rail, including some  underground tracks, from Lindbergh Center to the intersection of  Clairmont and North Decatur roads and then light rail or bus rapid to  the Avondale MARTA station. Three possibilities were detailed among the  presentations up for comment.
Jason Morgan, MARTA

Jason Morgan, regional planner for MARTA and project manager for the Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative, said Wednesday night’s Station Area Planning and Alignment Workshop, held at Torah Day School of Atlanta, concludes the public meetings that will be held during the Alternative Analysis phase of the project development process.
“It’s important that people’s concerns are documented at this stage   so they can be flagged for inclusion in the environmental process and   then we can be ready to mitigate them,” Morgan said.
Three previous formal public-input meetings were held, including this one, two last year and one in May. In addition, several community meetings have been held, including one called by the Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition on July 12 that was attended by more than 200 people.
Neighborhood groups involved in the Clifton Corridor transit development process, so far, have included Morningside/Lenox Park Neighbhorhood Association, Lindridge/Martin Manor Neighborhood Association and Woodland Hills Neighborhood Association.
Planners had explored at-grade options including light rail and bus rapid transit and to utilize the CSX right-of-way, but neighborhood concerns, development density and refusal by CSX to share their space, open up the possibility for subterranean tracks.
Rather than blasting, Morgan said, builders would use a tunnel-boring machine.
“We want to avoid the ‘cut-and-cover’ method, which involves a lot of disruption, which is what we’re trying to avoid,” he said.
LLCC and Lenox Park/Morningside have hired consultant Perkins+Will’s Urban Design practice and their senior transportation planner, Heather Alhadeff, to assist them in getting their concerns heard.
“I am here to coordinate, advise and manage the dialogue between MARTA and their partner, CCTMA, and the neighborhoods,” said Aldaheff, “to communicate things in a meaningful, understandable and productive way, in both directions.”
MARTA and CCTMA boards are expected to vote in November on the proposal, which would send the process to the environmental stage, during which historic and ecological studies would be made, as well as impact studies on what effect would be felt by property owners. Once the environmental stage is cleared, the process moves on to preliminary engineering and then the final design stage.
All four stages of the development process must include public input as well as local and federal approval, Morgan said.
On Thursday, the Atlanta Regional Roundtable’s executive committee meets to adopt a list of transit priorities in the Atlanta region, which will be reviewed and approved by the full roundtable before going to voters as part of the statewide referendum in July or November called the Transportation Investment Act.
“We are trying to position the project so that it will qualify for any federal funds that might be available,” Morgan said, “regardless of what happens with TIA.”
This part of MARTA’s planning process began in 2009. Construction is likely to take upwards of 10 years, unless TIA passes, in which case, Morgan said, the process would speed up by a year or even two.
On one side of the room were posters and flipcharts for community comments on MARTA proposals for heavy rail from Lindbergh Center, through the Emory campus to the intersection of North Decatur and Clairmont roads, then bus rapid transit (BRT) or light rail (LRT) along Scott Boulevard and then to the Avondale MARTA station. Linking to the Decatur MARTA station, for the moment, appeared to be off the table.
Also off the table seemed to be utilizing the right-of-way held by CSX railroad, though one of the planners at the meeting speculated that, once funding is identified and the project moves closer to being a reality, that the company might be willing to discuss the possibility.
On the other side of the room were placards describing how the stations might be designed for optimal entrance and access and amenities.
“We’re trying to find the right balance between having stations placed far enough apart that the trains can move faster, yet making sure we have enough stations so that people can get where they need to go,” Morgan said.
Ridership estimates were included on the posters, indicating that in 2030 about 27,000 “boardings,” or the number of people getting on the train at any given station along the way, each would be expected for heavy rail, about 17,000 for light rail and about 11,000 for bus rapid transit.
“None of the expansion projects could be done the way things are structured now,” said MARTA spokesman Lyle Harris. “Federal funds require that operating funds be available. The current ’50-50′ funding structure probably needs to be revisited.”
Also attending the meeting was DeKalb Commissioner Jeff Rader, who said he did not feel he had a direct role in this portion of the process but that these types of improvements could substantially reduce automobile traffic in his district and the impact of the traffic.
Later, he said, the DeKalb Commission would likely weigh in on land use and development proposals along the corridor.
“I haven’t heard anyone here say that we don’t need transit,” Rader said. “It’s just a matter of how we can get there.”
MARTA also is in the alternatives analysis phase of an expansion plan for an I-20 East Corridor to serve south DeKalb.