Following a railroad company’s objection to the announced route of the Atlanta BeltLine’s Northeast Trail in southern Buckhead, two transportation agencies say they also have not provided a formal opinion about the plan.

Norfolk Southern Corporation’s concerns about the route came as a surprise announcement in a Dec. 8 update meeting held by Atlanta BeltLine Inc., the organization building the trail and transit system around the city. Norfolk Southern later said that ABI had released the route plan before securing a formal opinion from the company.

An Atlanta BeltLine Inc. map shows the Northeast Trail crossing that Norfolk Southern objected to, circled in red at the lower left, and one possible alternative alignment that is under internal consideration.

Now MARTA and the Georgia Department of Transportation both say they have not given formal opinions about the proposed route, either, though it is unclear what impact, if any, that has on the planning. The Northeast Trail is intended to cross I-85 and connect with MARTA’s Lindbergh Center Station.

“So far, neither of these agencies have indicated a potential need for reconfiguration, but technical discussions will continue as engineering progresses,” said ABI in a written statement.

GDOT was given the proposed alignment for review in July, according to ABI. Natalie Dale, a spokesperson for the department, said that “GDOT has not made a decision on alignments for the BeltLine.”

“When MARTA saw the plans it was a sharing of files, an FYI, and no comments were recorded as it was related to the path alternative” and not related to the transit portion of the BeltLine, said MARTA spokesperson Stephany Fisher.

GDOT and MARTA did not respond to further questions about their involvement in the review.

ABI said in its statement that it has been meeting with GDOT officials and that an “official Approved Concept” will come later in the process. ABI said it already owns the existing bridges and tunnels over the Buford-Spring Connector and under I-85 that would connect the Buckhead area to the rest of trail. That is “the only location we expect to cross GDOT-controlled right of ways,” ABI said.

As for the status of transit agency discussions, ABI said, “MARTA has indicated they can likely support modifications to their existing facilities over Armour Drive and will allow ABI to perform survey work.”

The Northeast Trail segment would connect the existing Eastside Trail from Monroe Drive and 10th Street in Midtown to the Lindbergh Center MARTA Station. A short section along the Ansley Golf Club will open in a semi-finished state by late January, and a longer section between the Buckhead border and Midtown’s Piedmont Park is nearing a permit-filing stage. The full route is still undergoing planning and funding identification.

The most complex part of the route is in Buckhead between the Armour and MARTA station areas, as it has to navigate a labyrinth consisting of commercial, industrial and residential uses; highway bridges and ramps; Peachtree Creek; and MARTA and Norfolk Southern rail lines. ABI worked through several alternative routes in 18 months of public meetings before announcing a final route in May.

Behind the scenes, Norfolk Southern objected to the path’s route over and near its rail lines. Norfolk Southern and ABI both say they intend to collaborate on a new route, or “alignment.” ABI believes the general route concept can remain intact, project engineer Shaun Green previously said.

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John Ruch

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