Atlantans can be forgiven for having become a bit jaded about the shortage of visible progress in the eight years since the Beltline first burst on the scene.
Sure, railroad segments have been acquired and leased, public art's been displayed and a smattering of parks have sprung to life. And yes, 2011 will be a big year for the 22-mile loop of parks, trails and transit proposed to circle Atlanta's urban core and improve city life for generations to come. This spring, three new parks will open, including the first 12 acres of Historic Fourth Ward Park, which will feature a scenic lake, amphitheatre and the city's first public skate park, near Freedom Parkway. Later this year, a highly anticipated 2.5-mile bike trail connecting Piedmont Park and DeKalb Avenue will welcome its first cyclists.
Yet despite these advancements and other small victories, people still wearily — and understandably — ask if the Beltline "actually will happen." As a reaction to that cynicism, Mayor Kasim Reed has said he wants the $2.8 billion project to be completed much sooner than the current 25-year time line anticipates. How can that be done? Never mind the occasional ribbon-cuttings or other public unveilings — the best way to shake skeptics' doubts that the project is nothing more than pretty sketches and pipe dreams is for big, bold steps to be taken.
Here are five initiatives — the most pressing per quadrant, as well as a broader proposal that Beltline officials have been quick to reject — that should be given serious consideration for their ability to could reignite the Beltline's momentum and make the project more relevant to the public.