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Evelyn Andrews Posted by on October 25, 2017.

Consultants present early plan for PATH400 extension to Sandy Springs

Residents view the location of the proposed segment of PATH400 at an Oct. 25 public meeting. (Evelyn Andrews)

Residents expressed enthusiasm and support at a public meeting Oct. 25 for a plan to build the PATH400 trail’s “missing link” segment in Sandy Springs along Ga. 400.

Consultants presented a concept with few details. Trail designers Carlos Perez and Patrick Peters said that was done intentionally to allow residents to say where they think the trail access points should be located and what amenities should be on the trail.

“We are here to hear ideas and concerns from you,” Peters said.

The project would create a “missing link” between the popular multi-use trail in Buckhead and a northern extension that will be created through Sandy Springs’ Pill Hill medical center as part of the I-285/Ga. 400 interchange reconstruction.

About a quarter of the proposed segment is located in the city of Atlanta and the rest is in Sandy Springs. Consultants have not determined yet if it will run on the east or west side of Ga. 400 and did not present a definite location for the trail, only a map that showed the public right of way along Ga. 400.

This segment of the trail would run between Loridans Drive and Pill Hill. It would connect to the existing trail that runs along Ga. 400 between Lenox and Old Ivy roads in Buckhead. Phased extensions north to Loridans Drive are either under construction or already planned.

About 40 residents attended the morning session of the public meeting held at High Point Episcopal Community Church. They expressed mostly support, but a few concerns.

Mardi Mountford, who lives on High Point Road, said she would like cyclists to be separated from pedestrians on the path, a concern often voiced about the Atlanta BeltLine.

“When you’re on the BeltLine at peak hours, they whip in and out of pedestrians and it is disconcerting,” Mountford said.

Mountford said she is looking forward to being able to ride her bicycle in Sandy Springs, but is concerned there will not be enough parking at trail access points. She feels Sandy Springs roads are too dangerous to ride her bike to the trail.

“I’m not going to bike on any streets,” she said.

Mountford said she is not concerned about the trail bringing crime to the neighborhood, but one other resident, writing on comment posters around the room, cited a possible crime increase as a complaint.

Perez said the best location for the trail would be on the east side of Ga. 400 because the planned extensions in Buckhead ends on the east side. Construction feasibility and cost will ultimately determine which side it would be built on, Perez said. Cost largely depends on the steepness of the land.

Residents were able to vote on options for the trail by placing stickers on posters. The majority voted for the edges of the trail to have an open fence and vegetation. Some other choices included high walls, dense trees, a sound wall and a short wall. The least popular option with one vote was a photo of the wall decorated with the word “Buckhead” at a current PATH400 access point near the intersection of Lenox Road and Ga. 400 in Atlanta.

Perez said that some parts of the trail will require a sound wall running along the edge.

Residents also voted on what amenities should be included along the trail and at access points. For access points, restrooms were a popular choice, as well as parking, trash and recycling bins and an emergency contact station. Less popular options included a bike rack, seating area and drinking fountain.

Access points were not presented at the meeting, but Peters said the team has determined access could be provided at crossroads, Ridgeview Park and the Ridgeview Charter School. Residents said they would like to be able to access the trail from the opposite side of Ga. 400 and to have several access points, but they did not offer many specific locations.

The former toll plaza along Ga. 400 could also potentially become an access point, a decision that the Georgia Department of Transportation will have to make, Peters said.

“It’s kind of a pie in the sky idea and it’s never been done before, but it’s possible,” Peters said.

For along the trail, residents voted for security cameras, lighting, benches and mileage markers. Bike racks were again an unpopular choice.

Perez said it is not likely restaurants or other developments similar to what has been seen on the BeltLine could be built along this segment of the path. Most of the area along this stretch is zoned for residential buildings and Perez does not see that changing.

Resident Jeff Hunt said he is excited for the trail to be built and to have access to Buckhead and the BeltLine.

“I’m excited to have easy access for me to take my bike to the BeltLine,” he said. “I would just like to see it done well.”

The consultants next will host smaller neighborhood meetings with residents that live adjacent to the proposed path. Consultants will take the suggestions from residents given at the Oct. 25 to build a concept plan that will be presented in early 2018. Construction could begin in 2021 or 2022 and would last 12 to 18 months, Peters said.