By Collin Kelley
The Atlanta BeltLine plans to temporarily utilize the Krog Street Tunnel to extend the Eastside Trail across the CSX railroad yard, but officials have promised the graffiti and art that have made the iconic tunnel a destination for films, music videos and guerilla advertising will remain.
Catherine Owens, Senior Civil Engineer for the Atlanta BeltLine project, said there would be improvements in the Krog Street Tunnel, but the “character won’t change.”
“We’ll be adding new handrails to the elevated pedestrian paths that run down both sides and the city will be repaving the roadway inside the tunnel,” she said. “We also plan to add some additional lighting, but we wouldn’t dare touch the paint.”
The move to use the Krog Street Tunnel for a temporary fix comes as work continues on extending the paved portion of the Eastside Trail from its current terminus at Irwin Street in the Old Fourth Ward. The trail will continue behind the Stove Works complex and cross under Edgewood Avenue before arriving at DeKalb Avenue and the massive CSX Hulsey Yard. Owens said the Krog Tunnel is the most immediate and expedient way of getting BeltLine users across Hulsey Yard into Cabbagetown, Reynoldstown and Glenwood Park.
Owens said bike riders will be able to diverge off the Eastside Trail at Irwin Street, where bike lanes will be added, and go a block to Krog Street. Once crossing through the Krog Tunnel, BeltLine users will take Wylie Street along the northern edge of Cabbagetown to pick up the Eastside Trail again. Pedestrians will be able to continue down the trail to DeKalb Avenue and take the sidewalks through the Krog Tunnel.
Future BeltLine plans call for some type of streetcar or tram, which Owens said will require a permanent solution to crossing Hulsey Yard. “We’re looking at different alternatives and are in the process of an environmental review,” Owens said. “It will take a couple of years, 18 to 24 months, and then we’ll know if we’ll go across, over or under Hulsey Yard.”
However, the railroad yard is not the only challenge the BeltLine has to face as the Eastside Trail transitions into the future Southeast Trail. At the southern end of Reynoldstown, the trail leaves the old railroad corridor at Memorial Drive. Funding has not yet been secured for this segment, but Owens said the plan is for the path to run alongside Bill Kennedy Way on the west side of the road (alongside A&P Lofts), cross over I-20, and pass behind the Enso apartment complex (via Faith Avenue and Chester Avenue) before terminating at Glenwood Avenue.
Meanwhile, work continues on the rebuilding of the Edgewood Avenue Bridge, which will remain closed to traffic until next spring. Once it reopens, there will be stairs and ramps leading down to the Eastside Trail. Owens said the BeltLine recently received a grant to create access from the trail to Ponce de Leon Avenue and will be working with the city and private land owners about creating access points at Highland Avenue and other streets.
While this work is going on, Owens said corridor design is now underway for the southeast corridor from Glenwood Avenue all the way to Allene Avenue and the southwest corridor from Allene Avenue to Washington Park. The BeltLine also recently received a $600,000 grant from Environmental Protection Agency to help clean up former industrial sites (known as brownfields) along the northeast corridor from Monroe Drive up to Buford Highway.