The commuter trail along Ashford-Dunwoody Road in front of Perimeter Mall planned for nearly a decade is set to begin construction next year using revenue from the city’s recently raised hotel-motel tax. Once building begins, the multiuse trail is slated to be finished in about nine months.

An illustration of the planned Ashford-Dunwoody commuter trail in front of Perimeter Mall. Construction is set to start next year on the multi-use trail. (City of Dunwoody)

The Dunwoody City Council approved Feb. 11 spending up to $125,000 from the hotel-motel tax reserve to complete the design for the first phase of the Ashford-Dunwoody commuter trail in front of Perimeter Mall. There is approximately $800,000 in the bank from hotel-motel taxes to pay for such projects, according to city officials.

The Perimeter Community Improvement Districts had previously received a $500,000 federal grant for design projects in the city’s commuter trail system master plan, including the Ashford-Dunwoody trail.

Because of the use federal money, the PCIDs was forced to follow Georgia Department of Transportation’s plan development process, Dunwoody Public Works Director Michael Smith told the council. The process is lengthy, Smith said. With the city’s funding and by eliminating the federal funding process, the project’s construction timeline can be moved up by nearly two years, Smith said.

“Recently, the PCID board voted to take the project out of the federal process and fund it locally contingent on Dunwoody,” Smith told the council. It is also a lot easier to acquire easements from Perimeter Mall to build the trail by using local funding rather than federal money, Smith said.

An overhead view of the planned Ashford-Dunwoody Road commuter trail in front of Perimeter Mall. (City of Dunwoody)

The Ashford-Dunwoody Road commuter trail includes separated pedestrian and bicycle facilities in front of Perimeter Mall.

“Time and right of way acquisition are the reasons [PCIDs] said it was time to move forward with this project locally,” Smith said.

Building now rather than later ways to offer alternative modes of transportation is key to success in Perimeter Center, Smith said. And because the hotel managers supported the hotel-motel tax increase to fund such projects, they wanted to see such projects “happen quickly,” he added.

The PCIDs would match the city’s funding for the Ashford-Dunwoody commuter trail. The second phase of the trail is now in the design stages and would include the same kind of commuter trail along the west side of Ashford-Dunwoody Road between Hammond Drive near the Dunwoody MARTA station and Perimeter Center West.

In 2017, the city lobbied the state legislature at the request of PCIDs members to raise the hotel-motel tax that would create a revenue stream to fund multi-use trails, commuter trails and other green space projects for the dense Perimeter Center area where new development is set to open in the near future, including a new State Farm building and a new Hyatt hotel and Twelve24 office building. Both are adjacent to the Dunwoody MARTA station.

The PCIDs consists of two separate but jointly operated districts in Perimeter Center, one on the DeKalb County side with Dunwoody and Brookhaven and one on the Fulton County side with Sandy Springs. Members such as Perimeter Mall and the local hotels voluntarily pay extra taxes to fund local improvements.

A PCIDs Commuter Trails Plan that outlines multiuse trails throughout Perimeter Center has been on the books since 2012, but no money before the hotel-motel taxes has been available to fund the projects. The plan calls for creating last-mile connectivity for commuters who use mass transit.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.