With completion of Buckhead’s PATH400 multiuse trail at risk due to city funding shortfalls, recent behind-the-scenes tours gave a sneak peek of its newest section and what could be delayed or lost.

Livable Buckhead, the nonprofit overseeing PATH400, led the construction-site tours on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. The new segment runs along Ga. 400 between Sidney Marcus Boulevard and the Gordon Bynum pedestrian bridge, and is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019.

Livable Buckhead staff members Scott Cantrell, left, and Kip Dunlap stroll on a future segment of the PATH400 multiuse trail along Ga. 400 during a Nov. 30 tour. (Phil Mosier)

The future pathway includes dramatic views of woodland, overpasses, skyscrapers and MARTA trains. It also accesses a little-known wetland that Livable Buckhead Executive Director Denise Starling says would be a good spot for a walkway and outdoor classroom.

But PATH400 is now among the projects in Buckhead and citywide threatened by unexpected shortfalls of roughly $410 million in the Renew Atlanta bond and TSPLOST programs. Starling says PATH400 has $5 million in TSPLOST funding “completely at risk,” and another $6.7 million in federal funds that would be lost without the city’s share.

“Obviously, a lot of my time in the next few months is going to be spent trying to secure the funding!” she said in an email.

Livable Buckhead Executive Director Denise Starling, center, leads the tour group. (Phil Mosier)

The city is now going through a process of prioritizing projects in both programs to see what continues to get funding and what might be reduced or eliminated. As part of the process, the city is accepting public comments through Dec. 31 via the Renew Atlanta website here.

The city has said that projects already in the pipeline can continue at their current phase with money from the Renew Atlanta and TSPLOST programs, but not necessarily move to another phase that requires more funding. For example, a project in the design phase could finish up, but not move into construction unless it ends up on that list.

Buckhead’s office towers rise in the background of the future PATH400 segment. (Phil Mosier)

What counts as a phase may be part of the prioritization issue. Starling argues for a big-picture view. PATH400 already has several segments open; another one under construction; and an additional branch all the way up to Sandy Springs in the conceptual design stage.

“The city is indicating that PATH400 is not considered ‘safe’ and is, therefore, on the chopping block,” said Starling. “… A lot of the city’s determination of what is considered ‘safe’ is based upon progress on the project. They clearly do not have all of the information about the progress — we have 50 percent built and with this new segment that is under construction, [it] will take us to 75 percent completion!”

Photos by Phil Mosier.

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.