State and local government officials say they have worked out a way to pay for an extension of PATH400 through the Ga. 400/I-285 interchange.

Sandy Springs City Council is including $1 million in the city’s 2016 budget to pay part of the cost of including a segment of the multi-use trail in the redesign and reconstruction of the Ga. 400/I-285 intersection.

Other money for the $4 to $5 million project will come from the PATH Foundation and the Georgia Department of Transportation, representatives of those groups said.

Eventually, officials said, the trail could connect to PATH400 in Buckhead and to other trails extending north of I-285. That would tie Sandy Springs into a network of trails, including Atlanta’s BeltLine, Mayor Rusty Paul said.

“A lot of people are interested in connecting by bicycle,” Paul said. “The more people we can get to work [by bike], the fewer cars we’ve got on the streets.”

Sandy Springs Assistant City Manager Bryant Poole said the trail segment included in the Ga. 400/I-285 project would run from Johnson Ferry Road to Peachtree-Dunwoody Road. The Perimeter Center Improvement Districts plan to widen Peachtree-Dunwoody to add bike and car lanes as it runs beneath I-285.

PATH Foundation Executive Director Ed McBrayer said the extension “was essential for us to get the trail through the Ga. 400/I-285 intersection because we are trying to connect the area with trails.”

“We’re really connecting the whole Perimeter Center and Sandy Springs down to PATH400,” he said.

The first half-mile-long segment of PATH400 opened in Buckhead earlier this year and another portion is under construction. 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. Federal authorities have agreed that the proposed Ga. 400/I-285 interchange will have no significant environmental impact, clearing the way for the state to move ahead with the project, GDOT announced.

Trail advocates have argued an extension of PATH400 should be routed through the intersection as part of the huge project, and Poole said the city’s long-range plans call for a bike trail along Ga. 400 from city limit to city limit.

“It’s been a great joint effort for this to be done while the big roadway is being done,” Poole said. “We are appreciative of GDOT’s willingness to do this.”

State transportation officials met recently with city officials from Sandy Springs and Dunwoody, and representatives of the PATH Foundation and the PCIDs, to develop the plan for financing the new trail segments, Pete Pellegrini, construction manager for the PATH Foundation, said during a Perimeter Business Alliance luncheon at the Hyatt Atlanta Perimeter at Villa Christina. “We have gone through a major milestone with GDOT. We can address some of the funding needs,” Pellegrini said.

Pellegrini said plans still have to be worked out to connect the Buckhead trail to the segment now being planned at Ga. 400 and I-285. Livable Buckhead Executive Director Denise Starling said the group has applied for a federal grant for the connecting segment.

Paul said he hoped the trail would allow more commuters to find ways to get to work other than driving their cars. “We’re looking at alternatives to vehicular traffic,” Paul said. “How do we move people, other than sitting in their cars? We’re looking at all the multi-modal approaches to get people to and from Sandy Springs.”

Joe Earle

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.