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PATH’s Southwest Beltline Connector Trail Gets Started

Tue January 22, 2013 - Southeast Edition
Cindy Riley

In Georgia, the PATH Foundation has begun construction of the Southwest BeltLine Connector Trail, Phase I, between the Lionel Hampton Trail, Westwood Avenue and Beecher Elementary School in southwest Atlanta. When work is completed, trail users will enjoy a trail connection into and around the core of the city, with schools, neighborhoods, parks and retail centers more accessible by foot or bike, rather than car.

“The Southwest BeltLine Connector will link Atlanta neighborhoods near Cascade Road to the Atlanta BeltLine, a 22 mile-long loop of trails around Atlanta,” said PATH Foundation Executive Director Ed McBrayer. “This is one of many spur trails PATH is building to feed commuter and recreational cyclists and pedestrians to the BeltLine, with the ultimate goals of reducing the need for a car and creating a healthier, happier lifestyle.”

The idea for the trail was based on suggestions to connect Council District 11 to the Atlanta BeltLine. Part of the new trail runs parallel to Utoy Creek south of Westview Cemetery in green space the city bought in order to preserve land near tributaries to the Chattahoochee River. The trail will cross the creek and connect the entrance to Beecher Elementary School to the trail system.

According to PATH Foundation Project Manager Jonathan McCaig, “Southwest Beltline Connector Trail and Spur Trail projects will involve construction of a twelve-foot wide multi-use trail from Westview Road to the existing Lionel Hampton Trail, connecting Beecher Hills Elementary School and sidewalk connections as necessary. The project requires the contractor to install a pre-engineered pedestrian bridge, structural bridges, drainage structures, retaining walls, concrete trail and trail amenities.

“The steep grades around the Beecher Elementary School parking lot required tall/long retaining walls,” said McCaig. “The project is being built in a floodplain in some areas, so a lot of thought went into the drainage design. A bridge will be erected over Utoy Creek, so the contractor has to figure out a way to bring in a large crane to drive piles and lift the bridge into place.”

All design criteria follows the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) standard specifications and the GDOT supplemental specifications for construction of roads and bridges.

Engineer Mark Holmberg, vice president of Marietta-based Heath & Lineback Engineers Inc., said, “We were responsible for the design of the retaining walls and bridges, as well as sediment control on the site. With erosion control, we were dealing with silt fence placement and stabilization of disturbed earth surfaces. We’ve been involved with this project for a number of years, because of various delays that were out of our control and not design-related.”

Part of the project calls for a steel truss bridge across a FEMA-studied stream. This involved a flood study of hydraulic data from FEMA so that engineers wouldn’t raise flood elevations upstream or downstream from the project. Teams also had to select a pre-constructed bridge and determine the design of appropriate foundations, based on a geotechnical investigation.

“I’m glad to see work on this trail moving ahead,” said Holmberg. “The PATH Foundation does an excellent job of providing products for users that will be enjoyed and well-constructed. The trail will be a wonderful asset for the community.”

The $1.3 million project is funded by the city of Atlanta Parks Department. The project was developed by neighborhoods in the area working together with city officials and the PATH Foundation to find a way to connect to the Atlanta Beltline trail corridor.

According to Peggy Lewallen, president of Lewallen Construction Co., work officially began on the project in mid-November. Once the layout and clearing were completed, piles had to be driven to support the bridge that will be installed across the creek. Lewallen Construction also is responsible for grading, drainage tasks and concrete work.

Lewallen said that limited access behind the school is a chief concern for crews who have been using 330 Cat track hoes and Morbark chippers for clearing, a crane to drive piles and place the bridge and loaders and dozers for grading. mini-backhoes and Bobcats also will be used, as well as dump trucks, concrete trucks and a concrete pump for bridge abutments and retaining walls. Materials include Class A concrete and pervious concrete for the trail, and 4,000 psi concrete for the retaining walls.

Total yardage on the project is 1,754 cu. yds. (1,341 cu m). Other materials will include #57 stone, a pre-manufactured 110-ft. (33.5 m) long bridge, concrete pipe and headwalls.

Lewallen doesn’t expect winter’s falling temperatures to play a significant role.

“We don’t anticipate any delays from weather other than a few days not working due to rain or light snow. The contract is 180 days, which is more than enough time to finish. Rain will slow us down, along with really cold temperatures in the 20s. Shorter days also mean less production.”

Construction crews must still pour foundations for abutments, build retaining walls, install drainage, pour the actual trail surface and build an outdoor classroom. The classroom will involve granite rock seats positioned in a semicircle around a podium, giving teachers an opportunity to interact with students in an outdoor setting.

As the lead designer for the PATH trail, Pond & Company architects maintain a large portfolio of multi-use trail planning and design projects. The firm developed the trail alignment and grading plan, as well as trail amenities and landscape plans. All civil, structural and erosion-control plans were coordinated with the firm’s project design plans.

According to Pond & Company Project Manager Matthew Wilder, “Because this trail and many others like it end up in slivers of land that are otherwise undevelopable for homes, businesses, etc., the land inherently has multiple layers of challenges to contend with, such as steep terrain leading down to the edge of an urban stream, state and city stream buffers, tree protection through the city of Atlanta’s strenuous tree preservation ordinance, crossing of power and natural gas easements and, unique to this trail, EPA involvement, because the land upon which the trail is being constructed is dedicated as greenway through an EPA consent decree.

“A 12-foot-wide trail through the woods is far more complicated to design and permit than one might imagine,” Wilder continued. “All of the surrounding development excluded these difficult areas with layers of complications on purpose. With this being the only remaining public land upon which to build a trail, all the complications have to be overcome or avoided to succeed in implementing the project.”

Because the city of Atlanta has a strict tree protection ordinance that defines critical root zone and to what percent it may be disturbed without impacting the tree, special studies had to be conducted.

“All trees on public land that are removed or impacted due to proposed construction must be replaced on an inch- for-inch basis. The project tallied thousands of inches of impact and replacement required. It’s a huge expense to the project. Also, bridges crossing streams require a flood study to determine impacts to the 100-year flood elevation,” Wilder said. “Our role began a number of years ago, at early conceptual design and working with the PATH Foundation, the city of Atlanta, city schools and the community to establish the trail location. Plans were ultimately completed and permitted in 2012. Our role is complete, aside from some construction consultation as needed. ”

The PATH Foundation staff managed the project from conception to construction starting back in 2005.

“We planned all the meetings with all parties involved, we hired engineers and architects to perform the design and wrote the bid documents,” McCaig said. “We are now managing the construction process for the city of Atlanta Parks Department as part of a master agreement with the city of Atlanta. The PATH Foundation staff gives these services to the city of Atlanta and several other municipalities in Georgia and South Carolina.”

During the past two decades, PATH has developed more than 160 mi. (257 km) of trail throughout the state, according to its Web site, and has won national recognition for its trail building. PATH’s parks are located in both urban and rural areas, in both wealthy and needy communities. PATH reportedly spends more than 90 percent of the donations it receives on trail building. PATH trails were created to promote a healthier lifestyle by encouraging walking, jogging or skating.

Added McCaig, “For PATH, this is just another project in our list to connect Atlanta to another means of transportation. For the community, it’s a way to bring neighborhoods together for recreational purposes and maybe meet a new friend from one of the several neighborhoods we will now connect.”

The trail is scheduled to open in the spring of 2013.

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