State transportation officials and local officials are working out how to pay for the extension of PATH400 as part the renovation of the interchange of Ga. 400 and I-285, a PATH Foundation official said May 15 during a panel discussion on alternative transportation options.

“I think we’ve got a plan to get through this,” Pete Pellegrini, construction manager for the PATH Foundation said during a Perimeter Business Alliance luncheon at the Hyatt Atlanta Perimeter at Villa Cristina.

Left to right, Juaquin Jordan, Emily Haar and Pete Pellegini talk about transportation options during a panel discussion May 15 sponsored by the Perimeter Business Alliance.
Left to right, Juaquin Jordan, Emily Haar and Pete Pellegini talk about transportation options during a panel discussion May 15 sponsored by the Perimeter Business Alliance.

The first half-mile-long segment of PATH400 opened in Buckhead earlier this year and another portion is under construction. Residents of Sandy Springs and Dunwoody have argued the multi-use trail should extend north of I-285 to connect with trails in their communities.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Department of Transportation is planning a complete overhaul of the Ga. 400/I-285 intersection that is expected to cost nearly $1 billion. Trail advocates argue an extension of PATH400 should be routed through the intersection as part of the project.

Pellegrini said GDOT officials have met with representatives of the PATH Foundation, the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts and the cities of Sandy Springs and Dunwoody to work out ways to finance an extension of the trail that could connect it with neighborhoods outside I-285..

“We have gone through a major milestone with GDOT. We can address some of the funding needs,” Pellegrini said after the panel discussion.

He said plans still would have to be worked out to connect a final segment of the trail in Buckhead to a portion at Ga. 400 and I-285.

When PATH400 is complete, he said, it will help attract business to the area and provide new transportation options for residents, especially the younger workers generally known as “millennials.”

“Our goal is to make this trail a signature trail,” he said.

The panel included Ryland McClendon, assistant general manager for MARTA; Chris Tomlinson, executive director of GRTA and SRTA; Emily Haar, program manager for Perimeter Connects; and Juaquin Jordan, administrative services director of State Farm.

Jordan said the ability to connect to the Dunwoody MARTA station was one of the reasons State Farm chose a Perimeter Center site for its new regional campus, which is expected to bring thousands of new employees to Dunwoody. “It’s a transit-centered campus,” he said.

He said other employers should consider transit when planning their new buildings. “Employers should locate businesses where it’s easy for employees to get to work,” he said.

Haar said her new agency, part of the PCIDs, will help employers design transportation plans that include options for their employees such as discounted bulk MARTA tickets or carpools. “Anything that takes cars off the road,” she said.

She said businesses will do a better job of attracting and holding on to employees – especially millennials – if they offer options that allow commuters to avoid traffic.

“Big picture, what would be the best option for Atlanta? If we had a level playing field for all transportation options, so everything is equal,” Haar said. “In the short term, if your building has free parking, you should offer [your employees] free transit.”

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.

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